On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009, Bellevue College’s Associated Student Government (ASG), led by ASG President Joseph Root, hosted the first Community and Technical Colleges (CTC) Summit.
Ten colleges, including BC, participated in the summit, along with two members from the Board of Trustees, and a representative from the Washington Student Association (WSA).
The summit began with introductions from the student leaders of each school. Most schools sent their ASG presidents.
Root emphasized the importance of building relationships with other community colleges.
“I’m excited to have you all here, I’m excited to connect with you … I’m trying to get some discussion going,” said Root.
The summit’s agenda included presentations concerning the state’s budget climate, financial aid, possible placement of a student on the Board of Trustees, the cost of textbooks, and the WSA.
Root gave the presentation on the state budget. He went over the governor’s supplemental budget, and according to Root, “It’s all cuts.”
The governor’s proposed plan will reduce the State Need Grant program, and about 12,300 students will no longer be eligible to receive aid from the program.
The State Work Study program and smaller financial aid programs will also be suspended.
Gregoire’s plan increases funding, however, for worker retraining programs at community and technical colleges.
The governor’s plan will go to the state legislature in the 2010 session scheduled to begin Jan. 11, where representatives and senators will discuss the proposals.
Root emphasized the need to be in Olympia for those conversations.
Marcus Sweetser, Director of BC’s Office of Student Legislative Affairs (OSLA), followed Root with a presentation on the issue of a student on the Board of Trustees.
According to BC’s website, “The Board’s duties include setting the college’s strategic direction, establishing policy for the college, and approving budgets.”
Currently, Washington’s four-year institutions include student members on their boards.
Sweetser stated that students provide a unique and valuable perspective that cannot be overlooked. By having a student sit on the board, it would bring the board closer to the student community.
“Students are shareholders; we invest in our institutions,” said Sweetser.
When the discussion was opened to the room, a heated debate developed over whether having a student sit on the board is a good idea.
Jonathan Bowers, President of Associated Students from Olympic College (OC), stated, “It’s natural for us to want to take the next step and empower ourselves.”
Adam Kortlever, President of Associated Students from Bellingham Technical College (BTC), opposed the idea. He stated that the student presence on the board of BTC is ample, and that providing students with voting power wouldn’t be beneficial.
Danielle Way, Associated Students President at Whatcom Community College, stated concerns about having a student from a community college sit on the board, and questioned whether a student would be prepared or well equipped to hold the position.
Her remarks were followed by a representative from the University of Washington Bothell Campus, who asked, “Why wouldn’t you want as much of a voice as possible?”
Root ended the debate after almost an hour of discussion.
Brent Thompson, Associated Student Body President from Evergreen Community College (EVCC), gave a presentation related to financial aid.
Thompson reiterated the point Root made at the beginning of the summit that financial aid will most likely see cuts in funding.
Thompson and the other student leaders discussed which paths to take to ensure that the state legislature wouldn’t cut financial aid.
Some ideas that were tossed around included mass media attention, personal stories, and a unified front from all of the community and technical colleges.
“Demand for our state to step up and invest in you all, and invest in the future,” said Mike Bogatay, WSA Executive Director.
“[Our] main message [to the State Legislature] should be, don’t cut 13,000 students from financial aid,” said Sweetser.
Adam Kortlever followed with a PowerPoint presentation on textbooks.
The majority of the student leaders agreed that textbooks are too expensive.
Kortlever presented potential solutions such as using open access textbooks, encouraging instructors to use materials from open access sites, ordering books early, and lastly, legislative action.
Finally, Mike Bogatay spoke to the group about the WSA, which was established in 1982. The WSA lobbies in the Olympia on behalf of students. Currently, BC is the WSA’s only community college member.
The summit concluded shortly thereafter, and the representatives were excited to schedule their next meeting which will be held in early January.