ASG gets student voice on budget

By Elizabeth Ballinger.
BCC is expected to lose at least $2.6 million in state money over the next few years, and Amanda Alva is trying to get students interested in keeping that loss from hurting their ability to stay in or get in through the college’s “open doors.” On January 29, Alva will speak to students about the current budget outlook, and how cuts made this spring will affect their tuition, enrollment opportunities, and access to student services in her Budget-Cut Open Forum in the cafeteria at 4 p.m. The Board of Trustees will meet with college administration earlier in the day to update their budget plan based on Governor Chris Gregoire’s December higher ed cut reccomendations. Alva, who represents the student body to the Trustees, said she will bring the jist of the budget plan back to the students in her forum. Alva will explain to students how money from the state trickles down to them and how their services and programs are paid. This discussion will include how loss is compensated through an alternative resource: tuition. Tuition increases in the past have been restricted by the state Legislature to a maximum of $125 a year for community college students, but talk in the Legislature and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) of a possible change in the maximum cap may bring a heavier toll for BCC students. Student services, funded by the state, require employees to function, and would therefore be affected by an inevitable cut in faculty. The SBCTC recommended student service staffing as an area to be trimmed in preparation for budget cuts. Laying off teachers, particularly part-time (who make up the majority of instruction), is another likely way the college will be forced to cut cost. This would directly affect students, who will have either fewer class times to pick from, fewer course options, larger classes, or a combination. If tuition increases, according to Alva, enrollment is likely to go down to some degree, as fewer students will be able to afford their educations. “It’s the charge of the ASG Legislative Committee to advocate for student access to a quality education that they can afford,” said Alva. The ASG Legislative Committee, an off-shoot of the ASG, is trying to arrange a trip to Olympia some time after Jan. 19’s fact gathering forum to lobby for student concerns about the budget. The ASG is working to connect with other legislative branches of community colleges to present their objectives as a larger body. Student program funding, distributed by the ASG, would likely be affected by the budget cut if enrollment goes down, as the ASG is funded by a student fee. Rashel Solemsaas, new VP of Administrative Services, said that at present the college is planning with larger figures in mind than the 6.5% reduction the state proposed in December. Since economic forecasts are predicted to get worse throughout the year, the college is working with a larger margin of state deficit in mind. “We will plan for deeper cuts,” said Solemsaas, “and work with the campus community on how best to address these reductions with minimal impact to our students and the community.” As for the ASG’s role in talking to students about the ever-smaller budget, Alva said she hopes students will use the forum at the end of this month to mention their ideas, bring up their questions, and concerns about the budget, so that their voices can get back to the state’s leaders.