Assistant news editor
Stanley Wong is a political science major here at Bellevue College. He is also the Executive Director of the Office of Student Legislative Affairs (OSLA) on campus who will be taking a trip down to Olympia to lobby for student issues.
Last year, the OSLA pushed a trustee bill past the Washington State House of Representatives. The bill would add an optional member to the community college board of trustees and individual colleges would be able to decide whether or not they wanted the extra student as a voting member. If accepted, it would increase the board to six members.
Most of OSLA’s work is accomplished during the legislative session. Between those periods, everything is done in preparation. The surveys they conducted and events that were held were created to help increase the student’s voice.
The main focus this year is tuition. More specifically, where higher education fits in the state budget. According to Wong, “We want to make sure that the state makes this a high priority.”
Textbook pricing was something that a large number of students talked about in the student surveys that were handed out during the fall quarter. Students are paying hundreds of dollars each quarter which can build up in the thousands for each year of college attended.
If the tuition rate is going to be increased, Wong pointed out that something has to be relaxed to help offset the financial burden placed on the students, not only at Bellevue College, but all over the state of Washington.
“During my four month stay in Olympia, I will also be pushing to sustain the available financial aid being offered by the State,” Wong said. Mainly, the state need grant which is in danger of being reduced. The grant program helps those who are unable to afford college by paying their tuition.
According to the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board, 78% of those benefiting from the State Need Grant program have incomes under $39,000 for a family of four. In 2008, the mean income for the average household in Washington State was roughly $57,000.
With the shrinking of the 2011 budget, almost 58,000 students will see their awards cut in half and the program will likely be reduced by $146 million.
There is also the possibility that running start students are going to start paying a small portion, no more than 25%. “These are the things that we are looking to prevent,” added Wong.
As a member of the Washington Student Association, he and other representatives will be collaborating to schedule meetings with Legislators and their aids as well as attending hearings and sessions to target anybody that has a chance influencing the decisions being made.
On Jan. 27, the Office of Student Legislative Affairs as well as the Associated Student Government are asking students to join them on a trip down to Olympia. This show of support will aid in student lobbying efforts.
The more students that get involved or directly vote, the bigger the voice becomes and the more power they have. Power comes in two forms; it is either money or votes. If the student body does not have enough money, they need enough students to support mutual interests.
For students interested in Wong’s work can visit the OSLA office in the Student Programs Office.