NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Students won’t stay silent on high tuition

I lob­bied on Mon­day.

That may not seem like much, see­ing as hun­dreds of peo­ple did the same thing on the exact same day. But see­ing as I’m a stu­dent at a uni­ver­si­ty, for some, it might be a big thing indeed. I was there with 59 oth­er West­ern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents who met with more than 60% per­cent of the leg­is­la­ture to talk about high­er edu­ca­tion afford­abil­i­ty and access, includ­ing sup­port­ing new rev­enue, low­er­ing tuition, and the Wash­ing­ton DREAM Act.

It was a very pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence for these stu­dents, and will hope­ful­ly grow into greater engage­ment. What­ev­er hap­pens, though, it is a con­tra­dic­tion to the mantra that stu­dents are apa­thet­ic, that they don’t care about the world beyond them.

From one of the many, many orga­niz­ing ses­sions I’ve been to, there’s a say­ing: peo­ple aren’t apa­thet­ic, they’ve just become alien­at­ed and dis­em­pow­ered by our leg­isla­tive process. They feel like even if they do become involved, the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion doesn’t change, and stu­dents still get shaft­ed. But we’re try­ing to change that.

It first hap­pened this year with the largest youth-focused vot­er reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve in the state, with more than 15% of Western’s stu­dent body alone being reg­is­tered to vote, many for the first time; we had even more bal­lots than peo­ple we reg­is­tered returned at our on-cam­pus bal­lot box. We’re con­tin­u­ing with what has start­ed off as a strong leg­isla­tive engage­ment pro­gram; it will grow and con­tin­ue to evolve organ­i­cal­ly as more stu­dents get involved and take own­er­ship of this strug­gle. Stu­dents are being shown that a dif­fer­ence can be made, that we can erase this sense of alien­ation and take con­trol of our future soon­er, rather than lat­er, when the mis­takes made by attack­ing our shared soci­ety may be too great to fix.

That also requires the leg­is­la­ture to lis­ten. Nobody wants to be seen as anti-stu­dent, but actions speak loud­er than words. More than 1.4 bil­lion dol­lars have been cut from Washington’s high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tem, result­ing in tuition increas­es that have put some of the ways we pay for high­er edu­ca­tion in jeop­ardy. Increas­es in finan­cial aid don’t help the need­i­est like some like to think, instead deter­ring stu­dents, not just because of debt, but also because every piece of paper is an obsta­cle to receiv­ing an edu­ca­tion.

Stu­dents want to cut through the excus­es and see their oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tion expand­ed, not closed. And stu­dents are tired of excus­es. Stu­dents might be alien­at­ed, they might feel dis­em­pow­ered, but they’re def­i­nite­ly not apa­thet­ic. Mon­day, at the very least, has shown that.

So, Olympia, be pre­pared to hear a lot from the yet-to-get-a-col­lege-degree crowd, lest the group already with theirs con­tin­ue to make it hard­er for us (and those after us) to get ours.

In fact, let’s call it a “hel­lo”.

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2 Comments

  1. My sen­ti­ments exact­ly, Patrick.

    # by Jared Leon :: February 12th, 2013 at 5:27 PM
  2. Thank good­ness some stu­dents are speak­ing up. Why aren’t we hear­ing about the cri­sis in high­er ed every day?

    # by Jarrod Barden :: February 14th, 2013 at 12:15 AM