Student agendas meeting their checkpoint
Students enroll in college with a belief that they will one day cross the graduation stage. How the state invests in community and technical colleges should reflect that students want more than access to educational opportunities — they want to transfer, earn a certificate or degree, and leave college prepared to succeed in their careers. Yet too many students fail to complete college due to barriers including college affordability, educational resources and a lack of guidance that significantly increases the time to a degree.
During this session, my co-intern, Kristina Pogosian, and I participated in multiple advocacy days on the hill, testified on bills that would benefit students in the community and technical college system, and met with legislators to advocate for the Washington State Community and Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA) and SBCTC legislative agendas.
The WACTCSA realized the urgency to ensure better student outcomes by proposing an ambitious list of students’ legislative priorities for the state legislature to support. The students’ priorities are historic in that they put student success on par with student access.
Talk about drive! Here are updates on the WACTCSA legislative priorities.
- HB 1702 would mandate all community and technical colleges on the ctcLink system to specify which classes offer “low-cost” course material. “Low-cost” is defined as under $50. This definition was determined by a 2017-19 statewide student-led survey that had over 10,000 participants. If this bill passes, students will have the flexibility of assessing and reviewing textbook prices or open educational resources prior to class registration. This will help students make money-wise decisions about which classes to take since textbooks and course materials costs are hidden college expenses. HB 1702 was voted out of the House on a 96-0 vote, and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development on March 14.
- HB 1893 would address food insecurity among community and technical college students and the steps colleges take to help students overcome food insecurity. It would provide emergency funds to college campuses with the intention of reaching out to students directly who may need support for basic needs (such as food, transportation, etc.). This bill passed the House with “56 yeas and 40 nays” and is now in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
- HB 1041 (New Hope Act) would address college and university applications. It would eliminate certain conviction records when requirements are met. This bill would ensure students in the community and technical college system would have a fair chance and overall access to higher education by keeping the same standard. HB 1041 was unanimously voted out of the House and was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
- SB 5393 and HB 1340 (Washington College Promise Scholarship) represent students’ dream: Community and technical college would be free for all eligible resident students of Washington state. SB 5393 is currently in the Senate Rules committee and has yet to be placed on the Senate floor calendar for a vote. HB 1340 hasn’t moved out of the House Appropriations Committee.
Our week ended with Kristina and I reporting to the State Board’s legislative team about upcoming town hall meetings for legislators. We were able to call all of the legislators’ offices on both sides to get information regarding date, time and locations for any upcoming town hall meetings they were hosting. This was an important task for us because it allowed us to reflect on the values of impactful and meaningful communication in our representative democracy. The town hall meeting creates space for legislators and people from their respective districts to interact, ask questions, and get updates on the legislator's work.