A fourth year Biological Sciences Major at UCI, Daniel Hua has felt the effects of the UC budget crisis on his educational plans at UCI and has made the decision to pack his schedule with 15 units, 3 labs on microbiology, molecular biology and physiology, and a virology class in order to graduate early. He has already confirmed and declared his decision to graduate early to the Biological Sciences department. My interview with Daniel helped me reflect on my own UCI career and my future plans after graduation, as the day comes closer and closer.
Q: How has the budget crisis affected your education at UCI?
A: The current budget crisis has changed my educational experience at UCI. I have felt the impact more indirectly, in my own personal resources, than in the teachings done in the classroom. With the planned increase in tuition by 15% this Spring and another 15% in Fall of 2010, I find that it will be nearly impossible to stay in school without accumulating a debt that is nearly impossible to pay off. I am one of the unlucky ones, when it comes to receiving financial aid for quarterly tuition. I live in a middle class family that is considered "too rich" for financial aid, but not financially stable enough to handle these fee hikes. If I had stayed the entire year, I would be in debt approximately $5,500 which my parents would have to pay off by working extra hours. My parents have had to work longer hours. My mom works from 3 P.M. to 2 A.M. and my dad just started a new computer engineering company with my uncle so he’s been very busy as well. I rarely get to see them at home anymore. I do my best to help out around the house and spend my money wisely but in general, I feel that education should be more accessible to those who want to learn.
Q: Is there any struggles that you have to undergo in order to keep up with rising tuition?
A: As a full time non-working student, there have been many financial struggles that I had to endure in order to keep up with rising education costs. I try to walk instead of driving to places close by to save gas and I’ve learned how to save and spend money wisely, buying groceries in bulk, by doing the little things such as cutting down the number of outings with friends. Spending money for personal amusement was no longer an option, while buying books for the upcoming quarter was now a priority. My parents and I have made it a priority to spend money on the necessities first and foremost. The ability to enjoy my undergraduate years at UCI has been dramatically taken over by worries of rising educational expenses. I plan on working at a Biotech company after I get my degree and helping to take the burden off my parents.
Q: As an undergraduate, what changes do you believe needs to be made by the administration in order to fix the budget crisis?
A: I feel like there are plenty of changes that need to be made by our current administration in order to fix this budget crisis. During my walks around Ring Road in between classes, I have noticed many extraneous purchases made by UCI's current administration. One instance came when I saw two glossy new golf carts flying through ring road. I noticed that these golf carts were new on campus because they were so much different from the ones that I normally encounter. The money used for extravagant expenses, such as new golf carts for lazy administrators could have been used for better purposes, such as fixing our deteriorating classrooms. Another instance came when I was walking in the newly constructed Donald Bren Hall (DBH) and saw the flat screen television sets mounted on the walls of the hall way. To my amazement, the flat screen television set was actually an interactive touchscreen map that allows its users to find certain rooms within that floor. If an iPod touch is already expensive for its size, I do question how much a flat screen television version of that would cost.
Q: Were you in any part involved in the UC walkout? If not, what is your opinion of the students taking action?
A: Unfortunately, I was not on campus on the day of the UC walkout, since I was not scheduled for any classes that day. Although I am against the increase in quarterly tuition, I do not however, believe that walking out of class would be a beneficial cause for change. I believe that by walking out of class, students themselves are impeding in their own education, along with the education of their peers.
Q: Has the budget crisis affected your career plans in any way?
A: The current budget crisis has not affected my career plans, but has rather reinforced my determination to graduate early. Although I would prefer to stay longer at UCI in order to enjoy my few remaining quarters, I feel like my financial problems would not allow for that. Until last year, my sister has been going to a community college since tuition there is lower. However, she started going to pharmacy school this year and the cost of that has been a big contributing factor to my parent’s financial debt. Due to my financial issues, I have thus applied for an early graduation this quarter and plan on taking a year off from school to take the burden off of my parents.
Q: Your parents are clearly very supportive of you and your sister's education. Have they always encouraged you to go to college? Do you talk with your parents often about these issues?
A: Yes, my parents are very supportive and I'm so thankful for them always being that way. I am very lucky to have parents that sacrifice so much of their time and effort to ensure that me and my sister live comfortably and are able to acquire a good education despite the rising tuition fees. My parents and I don't talk about our financial situation too much; they seem to not want to make me worry too much about that stuff. They try to brush it off like its not as big of an issue as it really is but I feel that my parents sacrifice so much of themselves to do this for me and my sister... more so because they came to the U.S. because of the war and want us to live easier lives than they did. My dad is from Vietnam and my mom is from Cambodia. My mom was a refugee because Cambodia was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and she had to hide from the Communists. Her and my uncle had to hide in the jungle for a year or two so they wouldn't be captured... My uncle told me he was close to being captured but thank God he escaped with my mom safely. My dad's story, I do not know too much about but I know that he came to the U.S. when he was 8 because of the War in Vietnam. Both of them had to go through a lot to get to where they are now and they always told me that they want the best for me and my sister.
Q: Wow, your parents went through a lot.
A: Yeah, that's why I want to take the burden off their shoulders and do as much as I can to help the family out.
Q: Have you seen any changes in terms of classes and labs in the bio department since the budget crisis?
A: Throughout my years as an undergraduate biology major, I have noticed subtle changes in the biology labs and courses offered here at UCI. During the registration period, I have noticed that there are less classes offered for the same course. This annual reoccurring phenomenon is most likely due to the budget cuts and limited amount of resources and because of this, I have had to rearrange my schedule and work with the minimal choices of classes offered. It is a scary thought when you realize that public education is becoming less and less accessible to those simply looking to obtain their education required to reach their career goals.