By Monique Everett
The Washington Community and Technical College Student Association is a legislative advocacy group that represents student voices.
Ian Ferrer, a Whatcom student and Northwest Regional Director for WACTCSA, attends the WACTCSA executive committee meetings, and gives tasks to regional delegates as part of his duties.
“Each community college has a representative, also called a WACTCSA delegate, and they are part of the general assembly of WACTCSA. They vote on initiatives and other issues that they think are important to help two-year students,” Ferrer said.
On this year’s legislative agenda for WACTSA is Kindergarten through Associate’s. K-AA which will redefine basic education in Washington by making community and technical colleges free, Ferrer said.
“WACTCSA is dedicated toward serving students which means to ease the burden that comes with going to college,” he said.
Ferrer said money is an unfortunate barrier for a lot of students, which is why K-AA could serve as a ladder to help them out of poverty.
“The objective of K-AA is to try to make sure that any students in community or technical colleges go to college as if it were high school,” Ferrer said.
According to this year’s legislative agenda, WACTCSA’s K-AA issue points out that a high school diploma is no longer enough to provide a person equal access to quality jobs.
When he has talked to teachers and administrators, Ferrer said they have almost unanimously agreed that community and technical colleges should be free.
However, Lauren Besthoff, the WACTCSA delegate representing Whatcom, has doubts whether K-AA is achievable at this point in time.
“Currently, K-12 institutions are asking for more money,” Besthoff said. “There are signs up at various public schools in Bellingham asking for donations from the public.”
Besthoff, who is a full-time student with a part-time job, said she realizes firsthand how K-AA would benefit students like herself.
“Even if it’s not something that is accomplished now, I do hope it will produce results that include lowering the cost of education for students across the board,” Besthoff said.
Expanding support for undocumented students in higher education, is another issue on the agenda he said
“This is, I think, extremely important right now due to recent policy changes and some political tension,” Besthoff said.
K-AA would alleviate a lot of problems for undocumented students such as funding, Ferrer said.
“With K-AA they can actually go to college without worrying about going bankrupt or going into a lot of debt,” Ferrer said.
Ban the Box is another issue on the legislative agenda which hopes to lessen discrimination concerning people with a criminal history.
WACTCSA wants to ban the box on job and housing applications, which asks people to distinguish themselves from other applicants based on their criminal history, Ferrer said.
“The important part is trying to get people looking for a second chance to get their foot in the door so that employers or potential landlords actually get to know them as people and not just as felons,” Ferrer said.
The final topic on the WACTCSA agenda is called Open Educational Resources which Ferrer said is accessible online resources that can substitute for paid text books.
“Instead of having to fork over $300 for a text book you need for a class, there are online options that are either much cheaper or totally free,” Ferrer said.
Last year, State Representative Luanne Van Werven proposed a bill in the state house to have textbook costs become more apparent when students sign up for classes.
“It passed in the state house and in the state senate,” Ferrer said.
Right now Ferrer said he’s working to organize voter registration drives for students, as well as partnering with Rafeeka Kloke, the Special Assistant to the College Administration President of Whatcom, with plans to bring more legislators on campus.
If students would like to meet with someone like Congressmen Rick Larson or State Representative Luanne Van Werven to discuss concerns we can invite them to Whatcom, Ferrer said.