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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Senate allocates $630,000 to student services

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New staff could reduce wait time to meet with advisors.// Illustration by Nikki Swift

For students who have had trouble finding academic advising or scheduling a time to meet with a tutor on campus, the Washington State Senate’s new budget brings good news. Released on Feb. 24, the proposal will redirect $630,000 toward various student services on Western’s campus in 2017.  

The senate budget states the funds are to be used “solely for student success and advising programs that lead to increased degree completions.”

Bolstering funding for student services has remained the university’s top legislative priority this year, according to the Western Legislative Review, and it was a focus of student lobbying efforts at Viking Lobby Day in Olympia this past January when they asked the state for $2.4 million over the next two years.

Part of the new funding will go directly toward adding four new student advisors to Western’s Academic Advising Center and Student Outreach Services, said Meagan Bryson, assistant director of advising services at Western.

“It’s absolutely great news for academic advising,”  Bryson said. “Having more advisors on our team will allow us to enhance what we’re able to do for students.”

“The standard for advising based off of the National Academic Advising Association is one [advisor] to around 300 to 350 [students]. If we add four additional advisors it will get us down to one [advisor] to 388 [students] and close to that national standard,” she said.

Josie Ellison, legislative liaison for the Associated Students and a major organizer of the Lobby Day, saw the student lobbying efforts in Olympia playing a big role in securing the extra money for student services.

“I think a big part of the funding going through has been [legislators] hearing from students about personal stories of how long they’ve had to wait for advising and how long they’ve had to wait for counseling center services,” Ellison said.

For Ellison, though, the new budget wasn’t all good news.

“It was a little sad to see that it had to come from the extension campus funding,” Ellison said, speaking to the fact that the $630,000 in student services money was originally allocated to a cybersecurity program at Western’s Poulsbo site.

The cybersecurity program will still receive a $910,000 allocation from the state general fund in 2016. The $630,000 was originally set as an additional allocation to that program for 2017, but now the continued funding may have to come from a different source.

Henry Pollet, a freshman planning to double major in political science and manufacturing engineering, says he and others have had difficulty accessing student services, and that he’s happy this extra money is part of the Senate proposal.

“I’ve tried to meet with Counseling Services to figure out what classes I should take. I pretty much couldn’t get an appointment because I had class during the only time slots that were open. I know people who’ve had to wait weeks, so this funding should really help alleviate some of that,” Pollet said.

Pollet also attended the Viking Lobby Day and pushed state legislators to pass measures that would increase funds for student services among other things.

He saw the lobbying efforts as integral to the new budget.

“The senators were really surprised that we hadn’t gotten [the money for student services] when every other regional university had,” Pollet said.

There’s also more work to be done in terms of funding for students, Ellison said.
“I think we do need to have a bigger conversation about how, while [the increased student services budget] is a fantastic and hard-fought step in the right direction, it’s still just a step,” Ellison said.

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