The survey above, distributed by BC’s Associated Student Government (ASG), cites issues including “funding and resources for mental health services on campuses across Washington” and “sales tax exemptions on textbooks.” Those tax exemptions, as useful as they may be for students, are completely unactionable without support from state and local governments. The mental health services seem equally challenging, with implementation requiring either consensus across all Washington colleges or the relevant government regulation of mental health services on college campuses.
These issues go far beyond the scope of Bellevue College’s Associated Student Government (ASG). However, a recently revived partnership may make these goals attainable. In September of 2023, ASG began increasing its activity with the Washington Student Association (WSA), a bipartisan, student-run coalition that brings students from member campuses together to advocate for student-serving policy changes in Olympia.
To gain clarity on this development, the Watchdog reached out to ASG president Sean Behl.
“The last time we would’ve been active with [WSA] would have been… 2019, 2020,” he said. “…so just before the pandemic.”
Behl continued to elaborate on the drop in activity during the pandemic:
“That was pretty consistent for a lot of [WSA’s] member campuses,” he explained. “…not to say we still didn’t get value from that, because they were still advocating for all students and [community and technical college] students, but the more active we are, the more bang for our buck, so to speak.”
As they step back into student advocacy, ASG is focused on bringing financial aid to the forefront. Behl explained the logic behind this decision:
“There’s about 300,000 [career and technical college] students in the state. 20% of them receive the Washington college grant, which is a big thing the WSA fought for a few years ago, so we’re trying to expand that.”
ASG’s specific plans include increasing the median family income threshold and extending eligibility from five years to six years. Behl noted that, while it seems irrelevant to lengthen eligibility to six years for students at a two-year college, increasing costs due to inflation have made it hard to balance work with an education and have thus forced students to stay in school longer to get their degree.
“[In] the last two decades, it’s never been harder to be a student,” Behl summarized. “And that’s really what we want to, you know, fix and look at. …So I think the big [issues] are definitely financial aid and the Washington college grant.”
Behl closed the interview with a reminder that students can get involved with ASG’s advocacy if they so choose.
“Really,” Behl emphasized. “So just reach out to anybody on my board or [on ASG’s] Instagram.”
“We are advocating for specific issues right now because we voted to adopt our agenda, but that doesn’t stop us from advocating for more things,” he elaborated. “And advocacy isn’t just at Olympia, in the capital. It’s also in our halls… at Bellevue. Because wide-scale things that affect all students are great, but, really, our most important job is to advocate for Bellevue College students.”