Bellevue College holds demonstration to fund higher education

Bellevue College held a rally on Tuesday, April 16. Nearly 40 Bellevue College faculty, staff and administrators came out with signs reading “Attract and Keep Great Educators.” The rally was successful in bringing attention to the lack of funding that plagues Washington’s public higher education system. Bellevue College joined 10 other schools across the state for this demonstration.

According to Dr. Jerry Weber, the college’s president, the school does not receive enough state funding to pay a competitive wage to its professors.

“The lack of competitive compensation impacts our 500 full-time faculty and staff as well as our 800 adjunct faculty,” he said. “Based on a salary study commissioned by the state, our faculty now make 12 percent less than those in peer states. Likewise, our classified staff who support us need to be able to focus on their work rather than struggling with the cost of housing and transportation… We’re here to make the case that the state needs to fund higher education.”

The issues they raise are valid and have had a drastic effect on community and technical colleges for years. Because these institutions pay a lower salary, they miss out on many quality candidates for faculty and staff positions and experience a higher turnover rate.

These issues are exacerbated by Bellevue’s rapidly rising cost of living as the Pacific Northwest tech boom continues.

Jody Laflen, BC’s Institute of Business and Information Technology dean, spoke about how these budgetary restrictions have affected Bellevue College’s nursing and technology departments.

“These fields are so important in our current society and our students need them,” she said. “It’s hard to find and retain high quality faculty when they can’t afford to live in the area.”

Those aren’t the only departments affected, as Bellevue College’s budding computer science bachelor’s program is experiencing explosive growth, where the big factor holding back the department is the need for more professors in the much sought-after subject.

Bellevue College has over 30,000 students annually and will continue to grow. It is rallies such as this which lead to appropriate increases in funding to match the school’s growth and inflation, as well as keep Bellevue College a competitive school.

Photo by Penny Yeh