Campus walk-outs and rallies will accompany today's delivery of
petitions to state lawmakers from college students and professors,
asking that higher education at Washington's state schools be spared
any more budget cuts. 8,000 signatures have been gathered on petitions
by student groups and the teachers' union, AFT Washington, to be presented to state lawmakers.
Peter Sterr is a senior at U.W. Vancouver and a leader of the Washington Students Association.
He says his classmates are often too busy to worry about what's
happening in Olympia, but now, they're seeing the need to pay attention
and get more involved.
"We have thousands of students around the state who are receiving
financial aid of one sort or another, and many more students who are on
loans, are working their way through, and are really on the cusp of
being able to not afford to go. Students are getting riled up."
Sterr says students want to know if there's a limit after which the
cuts will stop or tuition hikes will level off. In four-year
universities, tuition has increased 28 percent in the past two years.
At two-year schools, according to AFT Washington, one in
four students is unemployed and trying to boost their career skills. At
South Seattle Community College, instructor Mike Hickey says there's a
waiting list of a thousand people who can't get into classes on his
campus as a result of funding cuts.
"Professional technical programs, the worker retraining programs, et
cetera - this is what's going to get folks back out into the workforce
in the most efficient and accelerated manner. That's why I think we
have to continue to fight higher ED cuts."
Enrollment in community and technical colleges was up 16 percent in
Washington last year, and tuition in those schools has risen 14 percent
in the past two years.
The petitions will be given to members of the Ways and Means Committees
in both the House and Senate. The governor's office says 14 percent of
the state's budget goes to higher education.