ASWSU advocates for higher education funding

Executives lobby for State Need Grant, SR 26 lane construction, K-12 sex ed



Students from WSU, including members of ASWSU and GPSA, visited the state capitol in Olympia last week to lobby for higher education issues at the university. These included funding for extension centers, mental health and expanding the State Need Grant.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen deputy news editor

Students from all WSU campuses lobbied for higher education issues to Washington senators and representatives in Olympia during Coug Day at the Capitol.

Kelly Marshall, ASWSU’s deputy director of legislative affairs, said ASWSU senates across WSU campuses sponsored over 100 students to attend.

“What really matters is getting students to meet face-to-face with legislators to tell their stories,” Marshall said. “Legislators can get facts and figures on their own.”

She said Coug Day at the Capitol is a two-day event, but the actual lobbying occurred Jan. 28.

Marshall said students met with about 80 legislators and spoke to several representatives.

ASWSU President Savannah Rogers said students addressed issues like the need to expand and increase the State Need Grant, which provides need-based financial aid to eligible students.

Students who receive the grant must have a household income less than 70 percent of Washington’s median family income, according to the Washington Student Achievement Council’s website.

Rogers said they lobbied to increase the percentage to 100.

“How many students don’t attend WSU because they qualified for the grant, but did not receive funding?” she said. “I have friends who received the grant in some years and other years they didn’t. Now, they have $20,000 of debt.”

ASWSU Vice President Tyler Parchem said they also spoke to senators about adding more mental health resources to campuses.

Parchem said they plan to request more funding to hire more mental health counselors.

“Every student has a unique story to why it is important to them,” he said. “For example, with mental health, someone could have a mental health illness, or have someone they know that is affected.”

Rogers said they also supported a bill that would require public schools to provide K-12 students with affirmative consent training regarding sex education.

She said another item on their agenda is to speed up construction on State Route 26. There is funding allocated for the construction, but it is not scheduled to start until 2025. Parchem said construction is set to turn the two-lane highway into four lanes to make it safer.

Rogers said students also requested funding for the new Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab.

She said they also want to continue funding for veteran tuition waivers and scholarships for Native American students.

“These things directly impact us every single day,” Rogers said, “whether that is safety, driving to and from school, mental health resources or the fiscal health of students.”

Rogers said she and other students raised a Cougar flag in front of the capitol building during the event because WSU had the most students register to vote in the state and won Gov. Jay Inslee’s Student Voter Registration Challenge.

“We’re the only school in the state that was able to do that,” Rogers said. “[The flag] was able to fly over the capitol.”