Work continues on community and technical college student priorities
It has been two weeks since the legislative session commenced. Our community and technical college students are igniting the process with their voices. We students believe that our voices can push legislation that affects us directly, while witnessing the process because we are involved.
This week, my co-intern Kristina Pogosian testified at the Senate Committee for Higher Education and Workforce Development, and the House Committee for College and Workforce Development; in support for the “Washington College Promise” (HB 1340 and HB 1123). We both shared our stories regarding college affordability and obstacles we face in trying to attain a college degree or certificate. As a second year college student, I feel the pressure that relates to college affordability. College should be an abode of motivation for students joining the higher education realm. Luckily, we have support of our college presidents, vice presidents and deans, who were all present in the legislative committee meetings. The Washington Community and Technical College Student Association strongly supports the “Washington College Promise” bills. If passed, it will aid the 23,000 eligible students who can't currently receive the grant due to lack of funding.
Another boon for this is advocacy work is the unique support we get from our college administrators, such as from our college presidents, trustees, and faculty. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Kristina and I met with the State Board and all presidents from the 34 community and technical colleges. We shared insights of our work and motivated them to support our student leaders for advocacy day, which was held on Thursday, Jan. 24. Community and technical college students from 20 different colleges turned up in great numbers to raise their student flags and voices on student related issues directly to legislators.
Our student agenda for WACTCSA includes:
- HB 1041 (New Hope Act): Sponsored by Rep. Hansen, this bill addresses applications of higher education. It eliminates certain conviction records when requirements are met. Many community college students along with me plan to transfer to a 4-year university. However the same standard that the community colleges have set is not regulated among the 4 year institutions in Washington. This bill would ensure students in the community college system would have a fair chance and overall access to higher education by keeping the same standard.
- HB 1470: Sponsored by Rep. Young, provides incentives for the use of open source instructional materials for higher education. The bill will also support ctcLink to specify “low cost” materials for courses; “low-cost being defined as $50 or less." This position is derived from a student led survey led by WACTCSA this past summer which channeled over 10,000 student responses.
- Food Insecurity: continues to be a hot topic with much interest systemwide. We have learned that almost every college in our system has some type of response to address food insecurity. But the problem of poverty and hungry students is pervasive. We have yet to see legislation that will address student food insecurity but we know there is background and advocacy work being done. We are hopeful that stakeholders, advocates and students will come as one to address important need.
With this advocacy and student visits we are confident legislators now know where students stand on supporting students within the community and technical colleges. In the past 24 hours, the Legislature’s support for higher education was made clear as they have sponsored or co-sponsored bills related to the WACTCSA legislative agenda.