First week of session starts off on a great note
As the first week of legislative session comes to an end, it felt exhilarating to do such good work on behalf of my fellow students in Washington. Throughout the week, I shared with legislators the WACTCSA Legislative Agenda highlighting: fully funding the State Need Grant, expanding educational opportunities for undocumented students, and a fair chance for employment for the justice involved.
Legislators have big plans for higher ed this year and to get it done quickly!
Day one of session, the House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on the supplemental operating budget. It was my first day on the hill, and I was already testifying. I spoke with concern that the budget did not support a fully-funded State Need Grant, a high priority for community and technical college students and the college system. As a State Need Grant recipient myself, I can tell you it has made all the difference in my life. I can advance and focus my education with the investment Washington State makes in students. I echoed the remarks from the House Appropriations hearing in Senate Ways and Means on the governor’s supplemental operating budget Tuesday.
Being part of conversations all week long and hearing plans legislators have for higher education this session, I can confidently say advances for students look promising by Sine Die, the last day of the session. An instrumental part of this work is having a constant flow of advocacy groups, such as the College Promise Coalition, being diligent from the first day. Tuesday, Jan. 9 was the annual College Promise Coalition Day, where trustees and regents from universities and colleges across the state came to advocate for affordable, accessible, and quality education for Washington state students. I was able to join the trustees and regents meetings throughout the day with legislators. In those meetings, I reiterated the importance of a fully-funded State Need Grant, shared my personal connection to it, and the successes I’ve had with having a constant stream of funding from the College Bound Scholarship. However, I can’t say the same for the 21,000 students that were eligible last year but did not receive funding.
Ultimately, CPC Day was a success. Anytime when there are student advocates on capitol campus that’s success with in itself. The combined effort from trustees and regents totaled up to meeting with 36 legislators by the end of the day.
Washington has been a leader in policy innovation and sets an example to others. This was shown Wednesday and Thursday when two bills addressing the future of undocumented students in Washington state. HB 1488, a bill that would expand the College Bound Scholarship and Opportunity Scholarship to undocumented students, was heard in the House Higher Education Committee. Before the numerous testimonies in support of this bill, Rep. Drew Hansen, chair of the committee, held a press conference where undocumented students shared stories of their experiences in higher education as an undocumented student. It felt empowering to be at the hearing supporting this bill on behalf of the colleges and the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association alongside such passionate students. 1488 truly is what community and technical colleges are about: open access, inclusion, and equity for all students. I echoed my remarks in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on SB 5074, a bill that would continue to expand educational opportunities for undocumented students.
The first week of this year’s legislative session started off on a great note for higher education and students. With all of the bills that were presented this week, it shows legislators are committed to students.