More than 250 students from community and technical colleges around Washington gathered Friday, Feb. 1, at the state capitol to declare their support for increased higher education funding.
Handmade signs held by students protested against tuition hikes, rising textbook costs and program cuts.
Speakers during the event, which took place in the capitol's rotunda, ranged from students to staff to lawmakers, and all stressed that community and technical colleges are part of the road to a prosperous future for Washington.
Their message to legislators was, "We are the solution; don't cut the solution."
"We are the ones who will be the future of this state," said Alexandra Rose, a political science major from Tacoma Community College.
Tuition has doubled the past four years, according to Highline Community College trustee Dan Altmayer. "The time has come that we need to start funding not only the K-12 system, but our community college system as well," he said.
Several students told personal stories emphasizing that what was once considered a "non-traditional" student quickly is becoming the norm. Rather than attending college directly out of high school, speakers often were parents, worked full-time jobs along with attending classes and spoke English as a second language.
Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater), House Labor And Workforce Development Committee vice chairman, encouraged students to demand action from their legislators.
"This state fails if you don't get what you need," Reykdal told the energetic crowd.
Schools represented at the demonstration also included Clover Park Technical College, Edmonds Community College, Lower Columbia College, North Seattle Community College, Peninsula College and Spokane Community College.
There are 34 community and technical colleges in the state, which offer two-year work-related and academic training.
The event was coordinated through the office of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges in Olympia.
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