OLYMPIA, Wash. - The latest cuts to higher education in Washington appear to be the last straw for students. At eight schools across the state on Tuesday, they are holding walkouts and rallies, making phone calls and writing letters to get lawmakers' attention. The supplemental budget cuts $25 million in State Need Grants, but asks schools to keep funding them using other sources of money, rather than taking grants away from students who have already received them.
Iris Maute-Gibson is a Need Grant recipient studying at Western Washington University, and an officer in the Washington Student Association
. She says the combination of tuition hikes and funding cuts is making it tougher to stay in school.
"What we really see now with the lack of funding for higher education in our state, is that students are forced to not prioritize their education. We have students working full-time; we have students who have to take quarters off, which really can decrease one's ability to graduate on time, if at all."
State Need Grants are also used for worker retraining programs. Maute-Gibson adds that students who don't drop out often graduate with five- and six-figure loans to repay. The Washington Student Association
represents more than 100,000 students at state colleges and universities.
Sandra Schroeder, who heads the teachers' union AFT Washington
, says teachers normally would not condone students walking out of their classes. But in this case, she says the instructors are likely to join them.
"I totally understand what the students are trying to do. There's so many issues in Olympia right now that you can't talk and get your voices heard on budget issues. You have to do something that's going to draw attention in some other way."
Schroeder calls it a "shell game" to make schools use tuition money to fund the Need Grants. She says it's being done to keep the state from jeopardizing federal Recovery Act money, which would have to be repaid if state support for education drops below a certain level.
The walkouts and rallies begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday on the various campuses. More information is available at www.WAstudents.org