Washington State Legislature aims to take away college tuition funds

(SOURCE: http://www.citytowninfo.com/)Traditionally, revenue raised through the tuition and fees paid by students is used to fund a college’s institutional costs. These vary from an assortment of payroll levels to other necessities such as equipment and materials used by the college.

Here at Bellevue College, various fees are used to fund the Computer Lab in the N-building, student programs and clubs, student services, and even the lab portions of science classes.

But there is another possibility arising from the Washington State Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, headed by Senator Edward Murray. The money students spend at school s might end up getting diverted from the institution they attend towards the shortcomings in the Washington State-Need Grant.

With the proposed budget as it stands now, it is being asked that approximately $25 million be moved from tuition in to the State-Need Grant. What this means for community and technical colleges is that their operating fee accounts will be reduced $13.1 million.

Section 613 was also added to Initiative 1086 which authorizes the trustees to increase and levy new fees for technical and community colleges in the state of Washington.

The surprising part to supporters of higher education, attendees and faculty is that these recommendations actually passed through the Senate Ways and Means Committee with only one vote against it. What this could mean for most students is that they will be paying more to enroll and register at their colleges but will be receiving less for it.

Many people have been voicing concerns for this unprecedented move by the state legislators. Denise Graham, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ deputy executive director of finance, represented her constituents and addressed her wariness over taking funds out of an already stressed system.

Graham stated that it was the desire of community and technical colleges to have the resources to maintain their ability to provide the maximum amount of services towards students of all ages who attend. “Tuition dollars play an important role in our ability to do that,” she added when reminding the committee of the importance of a higher education in today’s society.

At a rally at the Legislature building in Olympia last month, a group of students asked the question, “Why are those with the least amount of money being asked to pay more?” The signs illustrated their frustrations. One person even put the amount remaining in his checking account.

Olga Afichuk, the Vice President of the associated students of Highline Community College, commented that “This is essentially making up the deficiencies of the State Need Grant on the backs of tuition paying students and at a loss of General Fund support to our local colleges as we reallocate these local funds to support the Opportunity Pathways (aka- State need grant and financial aid) programs.”

She compared this to the poor being robbed to support the poor.

Why should students care? This is something that has never happened before. The simplest way to put this is that the money students are paying their respective colleges are not going to those institutions. Instead, that money is being syphoned away and being used to support other state shortcomings.

If this bill makes it through the Senate Rules Committee, it will then be placed to a vote. To many, this is too close for comfort and they are urging students to become active to defend their right to higher education by writing their representatives.

For more information on this issue, OSLA is requesting that students and faculty contact them in their office located in the Student Programs office in the C-Building or at their email address OSLAorgdir@bellevuecollege.edu. They also have a website: www.BCOSLA.org.