On April 14, Bellevue College’s Office of Student Legislative Affairs posted a petition opposing Governer Jay Inslee’s new budget plan, which will reduce funding for higher education in Washington state. Over the next ten days, students were encouraged to sign the petition hosted on surveymonkey.com, and in total, over 2000 higher education students and faculty from across Washington signed. According to OSLA Legislative Director Kristin Velez, the legislative session reviewing the budget was scheduled to end on April 28, but may be extended for an additional 30 days because the volume of issues needing attention regarding the plan is too high.
To tell people about the petition, the OSLA used their Facebook page and word of mouth. Specifically, the petition opposed a 10 percent tuition hike for in-state students over the next two years as well as a 20 percent surcharge for international students. “This [petition] is specifically about the budget and we have a very special target,” said Thuy Ngoc Pham, the organizing director for the OSLA. “We’re targeting the policy that has been made in the legislative section that directly attacks higher education and letting our life become harder.”
Velez believes that there is still time to make positive changes to the budget if students are vocal about their opinions. “We are still in a position to make a significant different and protect higher education from the brunt of the budget negotiation process,” said Velez.
The petition, which was drafted by students involved in the Washington Student Association, the Washington Bus, the Win-Win Network, the University of Washington and other legislative activism groups, particularly highlighted the disadvantage both international students and low-income students would be at if the budget is passed: “The tuition surcharge proposal benefits neither Washington residents nor international students and it doesn’t reflect our values of equal opportunity. Targeting students who make our institutions, communities, and state a better and more diverse place rather than closing tax loopholes is simply unacceptable.”
While the petition won’t immediately change the budget, Pham and Velez said that signing still has an effect. “It shows that many thousands of people think the same thing, and [the state] should pay more attention to these kind of issues, because they really piss us off,” said Pham.
“This is a way for people who don’t have access to Olympia on the daily to make a statement, 2,000 strong, and stand for a higher education friendly budget,” said Velez.
The OSLA encouraged everyone to do their part in the fight for a fair budget for higher education. “This is not something we do alone. We are doing this not just for ourselves, but for future generations of students. We’re doing this, and the only way to win this kind of stuff is to show that students do really care. We don’t just sit there and talk about it. We truly care and that’s why we sign this petition. It’s been a long time since students truly have spoken about these issues,” and it’s never too late.”