Huskies on the Hill
Getting things done, making stuff happen
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 03:03
When UW Seattle senior Anneliese Cook got laid off from her job, her only option was to go back to school. She couldn't have done it without receiving financial aid.
Like many UW students, Cook's support for higher education runs personal. If tuition would increase or financial aid decrease, she would have no choice but to leave school.
This was what brought Cook to Olympia on Feb. 11, along with hundreds of other University of Washington students. Together, they flooded the capitol steps in protest of education budget cuts. They came from all three campuses for the university's lobby day, Huskies on the Hill.
Throughout the day, student lobbyists met with legislators or their legislative aides to promote their agenda for this legislative session. Many students shared their personal stories, relating consequences cuts would have on their educations. They also met for a rally at 11 a.m. on the Capitol stairs.
Cook, a recipient of the State Need Grant, attended the meeting with Sen. Jim Kastama of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, led by ASUWT's Legislative Liaison, John Wheeler III.
Cook said it took her over a year to get funding for her education. "I had to fight every way through the system to even get just one State Need Grant," Cook said. Cook was raised by a single mother, and she's had to shoulder the responsibility of paying for her education on her own. The possibility of her aid being revoked almost pushed her to tears.
UWT Sophomore Joseph Franco, a Husky Promise recipient, also shared his story with Kastama. "Cuts to the state budget would jeopardize my future," he told the senator. Because of the economic downturn, Franco's parents both lost their jobs. He works two on-campus jobs, as a peer advisor and at the library, in order to help out with the bills.
"No time in our history has education played such a key role in determining your life course," Kastama said. He told the students that Washington has 40,000 available jobs that can't be filled by the state's unqualified labor pool.
"So for the people who are unemployed in the state, it's kind of a false promise to say to those people that they're gonna go back to those jobs they once had," Kastama said. "Many of the construction jobs will never come back, many of the finance jobs will never come back, and yet we have 40,000 jobs, good paying jobs that we can't fill in Washington State."
The only way people will get by is by educating themselves, said the senator, because the majority of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.
"It's gonna be very tough. We're balancing a lot of social services with higher education," Kastama said. "I will do what I can," he assured the students.
At the rally later that day, students barked loud and clear: they don't want state lawmakers to cut money going to the university.
Sarah Reynevelds, a third-year law student, spoke at the rally. Reynevelds believes the quality of higher education is at stake if proposed cuts go into effect.
"The truth of the matter is that access to high quality, affordable education is fundamental moral right for this state," said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, who also spoke.
Priorities included lobbying against the portion of House Bill 1795 which would give the UW Board of Regents tuition setting authority. "We support the financial aid component," Wheeler said. "WSA [Washington Student Association] will always oppose localized tuition-setting authority, but we applaud Rep. Carlyle for engaging students in the conversation."
Lawmakers need to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's budget. The most recent round would take more than $200 million from education, though there are different proposals as to whether that comes from K-12 or higher education.
"It's a double edged sword for students," Wheeler said. "We have to deal with the possibility of lowered quality or increased costs."