As college tuition continues to rise for the fifth straight year, students from across Washington gathered to protest looming budget cuts to community and technical colleges.
Students from 15 community colleges in the state gathered Feb. 1 at the state capitol to protest the expected budget cuts that would force colleges to raise tuition prices and alter financial aid once again.
Twenty-three Pierce College students traveled by bus to the state capitol to protest the proposed budget cuts, especially to higher education.
The capitol building was filled with hundreds of community college students displaying signs that depicted the many moods of the day. Some of the most popular signs read, “Don’t cut the solution” and “You’re cutting from the future.”
The rally started at noon and consisted of six different speakers spanning from legislators to state representatives.
These speakers spoke of what they would try to do to help the situation
“This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is a Washington state issue,” State Rep. Hans Zeiger, a member of the House Higher Education Committee, said.
Washington state currently has more than 60,000 unfilled jobs due to lack of educational background that businesses require.
“The money in the pot is not going to grow, its going to get smaller and smaller until we do something about it. We don’t know when the cuts are going to stop. We need to do something about it,” said Lauren Adler, Associated Students of Pierce College Puyallup president.
Last year’s $400 tuition increase for full-time students caused more of them to rely on financial aid. The reduction of financial aid made it even harder for these students to be accepted for financial aid.
Currently 29.3 percent of Pierce students pay for college through financial aid, according to Adler.
“The tuition will cause a massive disruption in Grays Harbor where we have the second highest unemployment rate. With less financial assistance more people will be without jobs. This is creating a bigger problem,” Craig Taylor, a Grays Harbor Community College student, said.
With the economic times costing people their jobs and houses and forcing them to file for bankruptcy, many adults have decided to go back to school to further their education.
There has been an 18 percent increase in students in the past four years, totaling a 25,000 increase in community college population statewide, according to Adler.
With this increase in students, there has also been an increase in budget cuts.
Since 2008, $8.7 million have been cut from Pierce and 16 full-time and 51 part-time instructors have laid off. This will lead to even bigger class sizes and eventually fewer students because of rising tuition costs.
Many students voiced their opinions with an open microphone in front of the capitol after the official rally had ended.
According to activist Micheal Alkire, this will make a point to the capitol that they can’t cut the solution, that they are investing in the future with higher education.
“I just think it’s ironic that in Obama’s State of the Union Address he clearly stated that one of his top priorities is keeping higher education affordable, yet the state is trying to cut financial aid and raise the tuition. Cutting higher education is cutting from the future of the great state of Washington,” Alkire said.
Attempts have been made to make sure that higher education stays affordable.
Sen. Michael Baumgartner introduced to the state Legislature a proposal to increase higher education by $890 million by taking a portion of the states sales tax to college and university operations.
“Just as K-12 education was essential in the 20th century, higher education and training is critical in the 21st,” Baumgartner said. “After studying budget decisions during the past decade it is clear that to keep college as a practical option for the middle class; we must make it a constitutional priority with a dedicated source of funding.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost