A panel of four sat in front of nearly an empty room with eight students present to learn and discuss the issue of high tuition costs. ASURT, Autonomous Students United to Reduce Tuition, held this meeting on Thursday, May 14, in Academic West 210.
Jordan Quinn, ASURT organizer, lead the conversation along side fellow member Brenda McGarrity, Associate Professor Chuck Lambert and Chad Acosta-Elbangadi, a Socialist Alternative member and organizer of Seattle’s Home Care Workers Union.
Quinn’s first question at the discussion was simple, “Why is tuition so high?”
Acosta-Elbandagi answered with a rhetorical statement, “Does their even need to be a tuition, period?”
Paul Cocke, Western’s Office of Communications director, explained in an email that six years ago the state paid most of the university’s operating budget, which paid for the salaries of Western’s faculty and staff. Times are different now.
“Because of the recession, the state deeply cut funding to Western, and tuition went up sharply,” Cocke said. “Now tuition pays about 70 percent of the budget with state funding at about 30 percent.”
Education should be available to students who are planning on being in the workforce, Acosta-Elbandagi said. “There is a link between university students and the work force.”
McGarrity, ASURT’s student organizer, explained how corporations are responsible for Washington education cuts.
“People who have interests in corporations like Costco, Starbucks, and Boeing don’t have to pay taxes,” McGarrity said.
A student in the audience, Ciara Stewart, pointed out a fact she thought was ironic. To work in corporations like Boeing, you have to get an education, but if you can’t afford an education than you won’t be able to do so.
“There is an aspect of who are the one’s making decisions, we need to put pressure on them,” Acosta-Elbandagi said. Pressure means raising our voices, and working together, he said.
Students are busy working and trying to get into their next class, Acosta-Elbandagi pointed out.
“You are so busy chasing your own tails, you’re not in the streets kicking these guys’ asses,” Acosta-Elbandagi said.
Acosta-Elbandagi expressed passion telling the audience that students need to work together and build relationships for change to happen.
Quinn and McGarrity both expressed annoyance toward the fact that the Administration and the Board of Trustees aren’t affected by the budget cuts.
“Bruce Shepard makes $312,000 per year, lives in a rent-free mansion meanwhile, the Board of Trustees voted to raise housing and meal prices by 3 percent next year,” Quinn said.
Quinn explained that Western’s faculty is being paid terrible wages while teaching hundreds of students.
Western does support low tuition costs for students, Cocke said.
“We strongly feel that the state must increase funding to Western and the other state universities,” Cocke said.