Jan. 29, students from all three UW campuses walked into the Washington State Capitol Building to lobby members of the local legislature on issues concerning college affordability, transportation, housing and net neutrality as part of the Huskies on the Hill event.
Students from UW Tacoma — including the Director of Legislative Affairs of the Associated Students of UWT, Armen Papyan — spent the entire day in Olympia going from meeting room to meeting room to talk with local representatives and lobby for higher education.
“For a majority of students this was their first time lobbying, which might have been overwhelming, but many were very excited to try something different,” Papyan said. “I was surprised by the number of students that were interested in lobbying.”
Students who attended the event lobbied on specific House bills. HB 1768 and HB 1561 aim to lower the overall cost on supplies such as textbooks. HB 1433 looks to separate building and student fees from the overall price of tuition. The goal of HB 1440 is to establish a student loan bill of rights, as well as amend certain pieces of the Revised Code of Washington.
One of the bigger House bills discussed was HB 1488. This bill looked to include students covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for consideration for financial aid. The bill would also allow students who receive Opportunity Scholarships to renew them by filing their WAFSA.
Bills lowering student tuition and materials were not the only subjects discussed by student lobbyists. Issues such as traffic problems and the need to expand public transportation options were all discussed. Student lobbyists were calling for an expanse on alternative transportation solutions, such as an increase in train, ferry and light rail transit options.
This year’s Huskies on the Hill saw more students who attended than in previous years. While no official number has been given, Papyan was reassured by the increase in student turnout.
“In previous years the number of students attending Huskies on the Hill has been much lower, this year we were able to change that,” Papyan said. “Finally, it’s nice to know that we are heard, recognized and we have prominent promises made by our representatives.”
During the day, top state legislators met with students and held Q&A sessions. Among those who fielded questions were Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Students who want to learn more about what they can do to support legislation, or want to voice their concerns about city, state and federal legislation can go to the Legislative Action Committee — a committee run by ASUWT. The committee is composed of students from different major backgrounds who come together and act as the voice of the students on campus, taking time to talk face-to-face with legislators.