March For Public Education Speaker: Joseline Garcia

July 22, 2017, Washington, D.C.

Part of a series highlighting speakers at the March for Public Education.

Joseline Garcia speaking at the March For Public Education, July 22, 2017

Good morning Everyone! Bueno Dias!

My name is Joseline Garcia and I am the Vice President of the United States Student Association, the oldest and largest student led organization in the country representing over 1.5 million students. BUT I am also the daughter of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants, a sister of 2 brothers, the first in my family to attend and GRADUATE from a 4 year public university, and a believer that education is a right, not a privilege. I am here marching with you all today because we have an education crisis. A crisis that includes a government disinvestment and the privatization of education making it less accessible.

Much of my life has been shaped by the lessons I have learned from my parents. My father is a gardener and mother a housekeeper. My parents would take my younger brothers and I to work at 7 am during the weekends. You best believe that my brothers and I protested but we always lost. On one of those hot Saturdays we were trimming trees, I was in charge of picking the branches and putting them in the truck. My father climbed down the tree for a water break and pulled me aside to say: “josy Te traemos a ti y tus hermanitos a trabajar para que sientan lo dificil de nuestro trabajo. Para que aprovechen al máximo su educación y nunca tengan que trabajar como nosotros.” Meaning, “We bring you and your brothers to work so you feel the hardships of our labor, and take advantage of your education so you never have to work like us.” My parents had little to no education growing up but they have always understood the value of education and the pipeline of opportunities it creates, especially for communities of color and low-income families in this country. Like many other parents, their American Dream involves my brothers and I receiving degrees so that we have a better living style and can be happy.

College Affordability:

However that dream seems farther out of reach for my brothers and many other others because over the past years our governments have continiously disinvested from our education making college more and MORE unaffordable. Many students do want to go to college, they have the intelligence to do so but many can’t afford to go. I was lucky to have received state and federal aid while a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara BUT I still had to work at In N Out until 3 am while being a full time student to pay expenses that weren’t covered.

Within the past 20 years, tuition at private universities has gone up 179%, and a staggering 296% increase at public institutions. In 1963- 1980s, a university student could work during their summer break to pay school; today we are at a point where a student has to work a full time minimum wage job for an entire calendar year to afford maybe the average of tuition. This means that it is almost impossible for any student to graduate without taking student loans. Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. That is more than credit card debt which is $620 billion. The student debt crisis has slowed down the financial growth in our consumer-driven economy by preventing many from investing in homes, cars, businesses etc due to the fact that they’re still paying off their student loans decades after they’ve graduated.

How can we expect to make progress without education? How can we expect marginalized communities to have a chance at achieving their American Dream if the tool that is meant to level the playing field is out of reach? How can we expect to compete in the global economy when our workforce doesn’t have access to an education? This isn’t a partisan issue, this isn’t about entitlement, this is about economic and basic necessities.

Students work incredibly hard for their education, many of which I know are balancing 4 jobs to make ends meet. Many are houseless. Many are food insecure. Many have a decreasing mental health. All because they are placed in a position where they have to decide between paying their tuition or rent, groceries, and stressing about the entire situation. People in the Hill, people in the State Capitols are the ones who need work harder at making education accessible, not students. They need to make it EASIER for people to get the education they need, not HARDER.

Call to Action:

From the corporatization of higher education to (DACA) and repealing the Affordable Care Act, everything that our generation has bravely fought for is under attack. We are in a movement moment where the notion of what is possible is only limited by our ability to imagine it and fight for it. I believe that ANYONE despite your race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, immigrant status and religion should have access to an education and furthermore have the opportunity to thrive and achieve their American Dream including my parents, my brothers and you all!

I want you all to shout “I do or I am” in response to my questions if what I’m about to ask is relevant to you.

Who here has student loan debt?

Who here believes education is a right?

Who were is fired up and can’t take it anymore?