Kids join protest against proposed cuts to Parent Education program at Seattle Central Community College
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • Kids join protest against proposed cuts to Parent Education program at Seattle Central Community College

With the contentious special legislative session just barely over, the 2011-13 budget signed, and hundreds of millions of dollars sliced from higher education spending, the battle over the 2013-15 budget has already begun. At least that was the message delivered by instructors and students during a rally and press conference at Seattle Central Community College yesterday.

"There are still options available," Seattle Central faculty member and local union president Karen Strickland insisted, when asked about the timing of yesterday's event, "but this is more so about the next two years, and another budget cycle." In addition to double-digit tuition increases, the elimination of 180 courses, and nine whole programs on the chopping block, Strickland says that faculty has been warned to "plan on cutting every year from here on out." Her plan? A two-year campaign to educate lawmakers about the economic necessity of investing in our state's community college system.

According to a recent study commissioned by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, Washington's 34 community and technical colleges (CTCs) and their former students contribute $11 billion annually to the state economy, returning $1.70 in revenue to the state for every dollar the state invests in CTCs. And yet like our state's four-year universities, Washington's CTCs continue to increase class size, cut courses and raise tuition.

Among the programs being considered for major cuts or even total elimination at Seattle Central is Basic Studies, which provides ESL, GED, and Adult Basic Education to more than 2,700 students annually, over 93 percent of whom are students of color, 80 percent first-generation residents, and 50 percent unemployed. These students represent the demographic groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in our higher education system, and limiting access to these programs we limit their access to the American dream.

It's an incredibly shortsighted approach to higher, and one well worthy of a two-year fight.