Lobbying for WSU at the Capitol

Crimson and grey invaded Olympia during the weekend as part of Coug Day at the Capitol, where students from all five WSU campuses lobbied state lawmakers on various higher education bills.  

On Monday, members from ASWSU and the Cougar Lobby Team met with nearly 90 legislators to discuss bills that would benefit students currently enrolled at a university and those who aspire to pursue higher education.

Jansen VanderMeulen, ASWSU director of legislative affairs, said despite the reduced number of attendees from the Pullman campus, the lobbying efforts this year led to several accomplishments for WSU and students in the state of Washington. 

“It’s been very successful in terms of legislation passed and in terms of establishing a presence,” VanderMeulen said. “Our students did an excellent job.”

The State House passed the Real Hope Act on Tuesday, which will provide undocumented high school graduates a chance to attend college once Gov. Jay Inslee signs it into law. Depending on applicant qualifications, students who came to the United States undocumented with their parents would have the opportunity to receive Washington Need Grants.

“It’s saying that we should keep the best and the brightest here and give them the opportunity to qualify,” Sen. Hayley Hohman said.

Jansen said the Real Hope Act is the first bill of the 2014 legislative session to make it to the governor’s desk.

Hohman emphasized the importance of university transparency. The ASWSU Senate passed a resolution in support of House Bill 23-36 in January, which would require college institutions to publicly post how tuition dollars are used. The bill passed through the House and is being reviewed in the Senate Committee on Higher Education.

“A lot of the times you’d have to do public records requests, which could take quite a while to get that information,” Hohman said. “I think having all that information public will make it a lot easier for families.”

Students also lobbied higher education assistance for veterans. House Bill 10-11 would provide military veterans with ability to get into college a bit quicker. The bill would remove the one-year residency waiting period so veterans could pay in-state tuition.

“In-state tuition for veterans was a big item that we lobbied on strongly and that both houses in the legislature passed,” VanderMeulen said.

The bill has yet to reach the governor’s office.

ASWSU President Taylor Hennessey said Coug Day 2014 was not just a success for the legislature but a success for WSU and students across the state.

“It’s really a unique opportunity to have students see the legislative process in action,” Hennessey said.