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Striking UC Santa Cruz Workers Are Spending Almost All Their Money on Rent

“I am risking de-facto expulsion and having to leave the country.”

By Lauren Kaori Gurley February 24, 2020

When Sohum Banerjea started his PhD in computer science at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2016, he paid $800 a month to sleep in a bare-bones living room. It was the best he could afford with the stipend offered to him by the university.

“There were five of us in a two bedroom apartment,” he said. “Each of us paid $800. I didn’t have a door or curtain.” That summer, he traded the living room for a rat-infested bedroom.

Banerjea is one of many UC Santa Cruz graduate student workers who withheld fall quarter grades from the university on Friday as part of an ongoing graduate student strike at the university over the cost of housing. Santa Cruz, which experienced a housing crisis spillover from Silicon Valley over the past decade, is the third most expensive county in California and the least affordable in the state when adjusted for wages. Graduate students at UC Santa Cruz report paying up to 60 and 70 percent of their incomes in rent.

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