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 replies on “Students won’t stay silent on high tuition”

  1. Thank good­ness some stu­dents are speak­ing up. Why aren’t we hear­ing about the cri­sis in high­er ed every day?

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