By Diana Arbas
A new shop of sorts opened up on Solano Avenue yesterday. Amalia Mourad, 18, brightly greeted passersby from behind a table displaying her own homemade chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, Rice Krispies squares, extra-large cupcakes and brownies above a large sign that read, “Help Me Go To College.”
A passing woman, her tween daughter in tow, stopped short in front of Mourad’s sign with a groan and an “Awww.” A donation quickly followed. Her children will soon apply to college themselves, she told Mourad. “Here,” the woman handed over a Peet’s frequent buyer card, “have a cup of coffee.”
A previous customer had stopped to buy a baked good and tell Mourad, a Berkeley High grad and incoming UC Santa Barbara sophomore, that he’d been a Gaucho for one quarter before transferring to UC Davis. He was a student in the UC system from 1976 to 1980.
“This will make you cry,” the man said, “but my tuition was $1,500.”
The two discussed the astonishing rise in tuition prices over the years until Mourad finally said, “UC is not public anymore. It’s not.”
An 8% UC tuition increase was due to take effect this fall, but last month the UC Board of Regents issued a second increase of 9.6%. According to the Bay Citizen, last school year’s tuition came out to $10,302. But students like Mourad now face a $12,192 tuition bill heading into 2011-2012.
It doesn’t end there. Add on campus-based fees, housing, food, books and — for art major Mourad — art supplies, and it now costs more than $31,000 to attend California’s premier public university system.
UC’s deficit runs at about $1 billion, according to the LA Times, and UC officials said that the tuition increases only cover a quarter of the shortfall. The officials expect financial aid to help their students weather the rising cost of higher education.
Mourad laughed at that expectation. She takes out a $12,000 subsidized loan for the year, which barely covers tuition. She still has to pay for housing, food and school supplies.
“I get absolutely no support from the school for art supplies,” Mourad said. Her small college charges a $100 lab fee every quarter. “That provides me with eight sheets of paper for one class, which is pretty incredible. There’s just so many extra fees for things, and it really just adds up. At least for me, financial aid doesn’t cover everything. That’s for sure.”
So at the beginning of the summer, Mourad hit the pavement pretty hard, dropping her resume off at different stores and responding to Craigslist ads. It turned up nothing. At the bake sale, I asked Mourad, “Why are you doing this?” and she shielded her eyes from the hot afternoon sun, replying, “The economy’s shit — excuse my language. Places aren’t giving out summer jobs.”
Mourad used to do a lot of bake sales for the Central Asia Institute and raise money for the education and empowerment of Afghan women and girls. The bake sales were successful. “I figured I might as well try it out for something that I need,” she said.
And it works. Mourad estimates that she’s raised $800-$1,000 so far, but she has no specific fundraising goal in mind. “I focus a lot of my time on painting, too,” she said. “I don’t necessarily want to focus it on making money so I can go to school because what it’s about is what I want to do, which is painting.”
Yesterday, Mourad held her bake sale for over four hours, but her times vary. She’s changed locations from 4th Street to Solano Avenue and probably will continue to change it up. “A couple of people have said, ‘You can’t be here. I own this block. You have to be here with a permit or call ahead of time. You can stay for today, but after that you have to go.’ I just left. I didn’t want to bother with that anymore,” she said.
On the whole, though, the community has been very supportive. Back at yesterday’s bake sale, a young woman cried out from a passing car. “Amalia!” she waved and cheered. “Sell the baked goods!” Mourad laughed and blew her friend a kiss. Sell the baked goods she will. Mourad made $230 off yesterday’s bake sale and plans to hold five more until UCSB fall classes begin in late September.
Diana Arbas lives by the Berkeley Public Library’s West Branch and is a big fan of the LINK+ service. She will be a senior at Mills College, where she studies creative writing and journalism. She is currently interning at Berkeleyside.