Hundreds Gather for WSA Lobby Day

Correction:
In the article, Hundreds Gather for WSA Lobby Day, published last Monday, it was said that Elena Calderon would have not been able to continue her education without the funding she received from the Real Hope Act. However, Elena Calderon has financially supported herself throughout the years of her undergraduate study. She expressed how this bill has opened doors for students with no legal status because it enables them to continue their undergraduate studies.

On February 14, 2014 the Washington State Association (WSA) and hundreds of students throughout the state gathered to voice their concerns about higher education in public colleges.

Some concerns were shared before legislator meetings on the front steps of the Temple of Justice in Olympia during a rally by representatives, students, and WSA members.

Washington Student Association was founded in 1982.  It is led by students in Washington who advocate the interests of students attending public post-secondary colleges.  The WSA looks to improve higher education, making it accessible and affordable for students in the state of Washington.  It represents more than 150,000 people studying to pursue an associates, baccalaureate, graduate, or professional level degree.

Elena Calderon, a college student at Eastern Washington University, sentimentally expressed her gratitude for the Real Hope Act (Bill 6523) that the House of Senate recently passed this year in late January.

During the rally, Calderon explained to the crowd of students that it would have been impossible to continue her education without the funding she received from Bill 6523.  She has just received her baccalaureate degree, and is now pursuing a masters degree at Eastern Washington University.

Before students departed from the rally to engage in legislator meetings, Jessie Spinney, Vice President of Federal Affairs for WSA and United States Students Association (USSA) Board Member, sang a chant, energizing the crowd in preparation for the lobby event

Afterward, students divided into their appointed groups for the legislator meetings.  With approximately 15 minutes to talk to legislators, students introduced themselves and delved into the their various concerns.

One issue that was discussed during these meetings was in-state tuition for veterans.  Currently, veterans that attend colleges in the state of Washington pay out-of-state tuition rates until they have lived in the state for a year.

The post 9/11 GI Bill only covers in-state tuition rates, leaving the veteran responsible for the remaining balance.  The in-state tuition bill has passed to the Senate, and is waiting to be heard in the House.

During the legislator meeting, students stated that in-state tuition rates for veterans not only would provide them with an easier transition process from military to civilian life, but also diversify institutions.

Another concern students addressed was Voter Access, which would extend time constraints for voter registration.  This would enable students to register in a timely manner that will give them the ability to affect an election.  This bill would extend the deadline for students and youths 11 days prior to the election, and give them the ability to vote in-person on the day of the election.  It will allow those who are 16 and 17 years of age the ability to preregister to vote, which would automatically make them a registered voter by the age of 18.

Students stated that this would increase youth and student voting in the state of Washington, and impact the turnouts in elections that have an effect on them directly.

The Dream Act has made the State Need Grant available to 1,079 students.  The House passed The Dream Act (Bill 1817) to the Senate, and the Senate passed the Real Hope Act (Bill 6523) to the House.  Neither of these bills exchanged have been heard by the House or Senate.  Students attending the lobby event voiced the importance of having the Dream Act passed, which would allow students who have no legal standing in the state of Washington access to the State Need Grant.

Elena Calderon, a student at Eastern Washington University, sentimentally shares her personal story of how the Real Hope Act has enabled her to continue her education. Photo by Kristin Dellavecchio

Elena Calderon, a student at Eastern Washington University, sentimentally shares her personal story of how the Real Hope Act has enabled her to continue her education. Photo by Kristin Dellavecchio

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