By: Andrea Sears

WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Students, faculty and community supporters at West Chester University rallied on Tuesday for a student worker raise and a tuition freeze.

Last month, students delivered hundreds of signatures on petitions, demanding a five-year freeze on tuition and fees and a $15-an-hour wage for student workers. However, a scheduled meeting with school administrators was canceled.

Lauren Townsville, a student and member of the Pennsylvania Student Power Network, said student workers perform a variety of vital functions, from food service to secretarial work, but they can’t make ends meet on their current pay.

“We’re basically asking for the bare minimum,” she said, “which is just enough money to be able to live – to breathe, to eat, to pay for our tuition, to buy books – because at this moment of time, we cannot.”

Townsville said Pennsylvania students graduate with more than $30,000 of student debt, second-highest of any state in the nation.

Nahje Royster, a sophomore at West Chester, said raising tuition at the state universities without increasing the support for students who pay that tuition is just making the situation worse.

“That means every year, every incoming class and every class that is moving up, they’re just going to have to go deeper and deeper in debt, which is unfair,” she said.

Base tuition for Pennsylvania residents at the 14 state universities increased almost $90 per semester this academic year, to $7,238 a year.

While some students receive scholarships and some have parents who can afford to pay their tuition, Royster said many depend on their campus jobs and student loans to get by. She said a raise and tuition freeze would take some of the pressure off.

“It gives us an opportunity to be able to afford our education,” she said, “and actually live and survive without struggling every day.”

West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino has promised to meet with student leaders on April 11.