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December 2, 2023

Knocking down tuition

In the ring, amateur boxer Rosino LeGan of Gilroy does not back down. Neither will he as he stares down the Santa Clara University administration as he and students like him, struggle to combat the rising cost of higher education. LeGan has started a grassroots campaign at his school to fight back against the costs of a college education, which buries millions of students under a mountain of debt.  
“The petition for reduced tuition started in response to the increased tuition and housing fees at SCU, bringing the average costs to $66,043,” LeGan, 21, said. “I decided I couldn’t complain about it if I didn’t do anything to fix it.”
LeGan, a Mount Madonna graduate and a communications major at SCU, started a petition and worked the campus dining hall, gathering signatures to get the attention of the administration. It worked.
“I eventually got more than 200 signatures and met with Chris Shay, the Vice President of Finance,” LeGan said. “Now we’ve established an ongoing collaboration between students and SCU President Michael Engh. We’re working to reduce the university’s expenses to help reduce tuition and housing costs.”
LeGan took a collaborative approach, working with SCU to find ways that both the student body and the administration could streamline services, reduce waste and eliminate vestigial programs not actively supported by students. Now, LeGan is trying to take his fight nationwide.
“Rising tuition and housing costs adversely affect students nationwide,” LeGan said. “Now, President Trump revealed in his budget plan that they were going to eliminate subsidized student loans. Myself and millions of other students heavily rely on these loans.”
While LeGan tries to go nationwide with his campaign, he works to take his boxing global, training to fight at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. LeGan fights in the San Jose Police Athletics League and trains in his family’s garage which has been remodeled to fit a boxing ring and an assortment of punching bags and exercise equipment. Athletics run deep in the LeGan family, and Rosino has a ready-made sparring partner in his brothers Nick, Carlo, Santino and father Tom, who serves as his coach.
“Working on this petition and in boxing, I can’t give up the first time I face a problem,” LeGan said. “I find new ways to solve the problem and go on from there. I learn from my experience and the feedback I receive to make this petition better and better. Just like my boxing, I get better and better.”
Now, thanks to LeGan, students have a seat at the table. He and SCU will be challenged to reduce expenses enough to help alleviate costs. To keep tuition and housing costs low, some departments may need to tighten their belts and some students will need to forgo 10-minute showers.
“In our meetings, we learned that some departments had been consistently underperforming regarding attendance and many student activities draw no attendance,” LeGan said. “Students can also help by reducing their usage of utilities. Costs will rise if students leave the lights on at night or the air conditioner on while they’re away. These are things we’re paying for and we need to be more responsible about it.”
LeGan took his petition to Change.org, where supporters can sign the petition, which then is forwarded to several key senators and representatives, such as Senator Diane Feinstein, real estate magnate John Sobrato, a SCU alumni and University of California President Janet Napolitano. Despite support on campus, he still faces doubt from students who may not feel the economic pinch of paying for college.
“I’ve run into a significant amount of students who are in severe debt, but I’ve also faced a lot of overprivileged attitudes at SCU,” LeGan said. “When I was outside the dining hall, waving signs and getting petitions, I had one student tell me, ‘it’s not my money.’ That struck me. This person was not looking beyond themselves. They come from an affluent background and they don’t need to worry about paying for school.”
While on track to graduate in 2018, LeGan’s campaign has opened his eyes to a possible career in public service or advocacy.
“I haven’t looked past my goal of making the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but I do like activism,” LeGan said. “It’s competitive, like boxing. I started to think about how much I enjoyed standing up for something I believe in and making a difference.”
Over the summer, LeGan will be busy, working the punching bag, building strength and endurance for his next bout. When the bell rings again this fall at SCU, however, he’ll be there to continue the fight.

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