Thousands of college students from across California converged on the state Capitol Monday for the latest protest against slashed budgets and rising fees at public universities and community colleges.
Chanting, waving signs and beating drums, protesters marched about a mile from a baseball field to the north steps of the Capitol building, where students, faculty, college administrators and state lawmakers called for more funding for public education.
The peaceful demonstration, called the "March on March," lasted several hours and was the third major protest this month demanding more money for K-12 schools and colleges. Unlike previous protests that blamed college leaders, Monday's rally brought together students and administrators.
Amoriah Hartley, 31, a sociology student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, said she was worried her campus would stop providing free tutoring and writing assistance to students because of budget cuts.
Hartley, who hopes to transfer to a four-year university and become a social worker, urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to consider raising taxes to protect education funding.
"If we are all a bunch of tightwads, we're not going to get anywhere as a country," she said.
Deep cuts in state funding have led to class cutbacks, staff layoffs and sharp fee hikes at the 10-campus University of California, the 23-campus California State University system and 110 community colleges.
The rallies have been mostly peaceful, but some protesters recently shut down a freeway in Oakland during rush hour and refused to leave a lawmaker's Sacramento office.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, who spoke at Monday's Capitol rally, said he hoped the strong showing would persuade state lawmakers to protect funding for two-year colleges that have seen funding cut by 8 percent this academic year despite record demand for classes.
"I hope legislators will understand how deep students care about their education," Scott told The Associated Press. "By denying students their education, we're going to hurt our state economically."
Scott estimated there were at least 5,000 people at the rally.