Repeatedly screaming “We are the future!” under the cracked dome of the state’s capital may not have been what students had in mind stepping on the bus last Friday morning, but that’s precisely what happened when Bellevue College’s Office of Student Legislative Affairs traveled to Olympia, Wash. to participate in a rally for more community college funding. Around 30 BC students attended the event to have their voice heard.
Of the students attending, the Organizing Director Thuy Ngoc “Tweedy” Pham was a prominent voice. “We went to tell legislators that students care about their higher education. We want to control our own future through education,” said Pham.
Over 400 students representing 21 institutions attended the rally. All of these students came to the rally for the same causes: lower tuition rates, no more budget cuts and generally to have their voice heard at the state’s capital. BC added support of undocumented students and work-study programs to the agenda, but protecting general funding of technical and community colleges held the spotlight for the majority of the day. Given the state’s tight budget and the recent McCleary ruling from the Supreme Court—the pronouncement that Washington was not upholding its constitutional obligation to fund K-12 education—post-high school education may end up on the budget cut chopping block.
BC students had the opportunity to speak with the legislative assistant of Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom. Though conversation was difficult amid the loud cheers of the rally, the assistant took notes as students talked about their concerns over the dwindling budget for BC. “The full price my stepmom had to pay to attend the University of Washington in the late 90s…is less than just the tuition of BC. That is the result of less government funding. She couldn’t afford it then and we can’t afford it now,” said Sam Crenshaw. Students talked about how important BC has been to their careers, their families and themselves in addition to complaining about the exponentially rising prices. Some reported that friends and acquaintances had been forced to choose between tuition and rent.
According to Brandon Lueken, the OSLA faculty adviser, Olympia can expect an even larger and louder crowd on Feb. 18, since the second trip won’t be competing with school for student’s time and will be supported by the Washington Student Association. The second trip will not only give students a second chance to be heard by the House and Senate, but will also afford BC students the opportunity to spend time talking with at least one of the actual legislators.