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U.C. Berkeley students use chalk and paint pens to deface Sprou Hall in protest of tuition increases.
U.C. Berkeley students use chalk and paint pens to deface Sprou Hall in protest of tuition increases. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Today, London police released video of the attack on Prince Charles' car during December's student protest. The scene was just a small part of the 50,000 students who took to the street to protest tuition hikes in England. The same kind of demonstrations have taken place all over Europe: in France over pensions, in Italy over cultural funding and in Greece over austerity measures.
Naturally, one of the questions being batted around stateside is: Where are the outraged students in the U.S.? Universities have, after all, seen sizable tuition increases. University of California, Berkeley, for example, saw an $822 hike last year. Yet a protest there, only about two dozen students showed up.
The American Prospect took a shot at the why, last month:
In no small part, it's because privileged students at America's colleges and universities generally don't take the issue personally. Those who are politically active tend to set their sights on distant horizons — the poor in India, say, or the oppressed in Afghanistan. Without their privileged-kid allies, first-generation college students, immigrants, and students dependent on financial aid are going to have a hard time creating the kind of buzz that Britain has just produced.
Today, Simeon Talley at Campus Progress takes decidedly different stab:
What best explains the dormancy on many college campuses is rooted in a national condition. The social value placed on universally accessible higher education has declined. College used to be dramatically less expensive because it was heavily subsidized by the state. The past few decades have seen “massive disinvestment”. In the accompanying time, the burden of financing higher education has shifted to the individual.
Public higher education is no longer seen as serving the broader social good. And if you can afford college—likely through high indebtedness—the four, five, or six years you’re there are spent making yourself more employable. Colleges aren’t enabling greater democratic citizenship anymore, they’re producing wage earners.