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In the News

Students interact with representatives at annual legislative reception

uw and wsu joining together

The power of building relationships and the personal story were in evidence on Monday evening, November 18th in the Husky Union Building on the University of Washington campus. The Associated Students of UW met with 12 Washington state legislators, all in the effort to create constructive, give-and-take dialogue. WSU  Impact applauds the focus on the personal story – we have several tools and suggestions on how WSU Impact members can share their personal stories with your three legislators. Nothing is more powerful, or effective with your lawmaker. And, we applaud student leaders – like our own Associated Students at Washington State University – at all public universities who engage in government and democracy.

Joon Yi – The Daily of the University of Washington

Twelve Washington state legislators appeared at the HUB on Monday night as part of the Seventh Annual Legislative Reception, giving students the opportunity to lobby state representatives as they prepare for the legislative session.

This year, the ASUW Office of Government Relations (OGR), which hosted the event, wanted to raise awareness of accessibility to state legislators and representatives for students when it came to having a discussion about higher education and state funding.

“We just want students to sit down with legislators and talk about their higher-ed stories,” said KK Saha, OGR legislative programming coordinator. “You don’t have to be politically engaged to have that story. Everyone has a personal story.”

Saha said there were approximately 80 students at the event. Like last year, every student who signed up was given the opportunity to attend. In the past, some students were not given access to the event due to a limited budget. They were chosen by the quality of their application, the groups they were involved with on campus, and where they were registered to vote in the state of Washington.

Saha said in-state, out-of-state, and international students attended, with approximately 40-50 percent of the students affiliated with ASUW. She explained her experience talking to a legislator as an international student from Thailand.

“One of the thing that amazes me is that you get to sit down with legislators and talk to them … It’s hard to get a one-on-one with them,” Saha said. “[But at the reception] they’re open to talking to someone who’s not even from the United States.”

OGR Assistant Director Molly Smith said a lot of students don’t know who their legislators are and may think they’re unreachable.

“[The legislative reception] opens up that sphere of reaching out to [your legislator],” Smith said. “We want students to know it’s easy to talk to them, and that [the legislators] are interested in learning about [the students].”

OGR addressed four talking points for the reception, and unveiled their legislative agenda for the year. These points included supporting the pilot program of Pay It Forward — in which students would pay a certain percentage of their income for a fixed number of years after graduation in lieu of tuition — along with a strong local transportation system, increasing funding to state universities, and increasing voter registration and accessibility.

State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) spoke at the event, and said tuition is now 22 percent of a median household income.

“That’s not affordable,” he said. “That’s why we face crushing loan debts in this country.”

Pollet said the Pay it Forward program was the solution to the issue.

With one legislator at each table of six to seven students, all students had an opportunity to voice their stories during the dinner. The stories ranged from what students were working on in and outside of school, to their concerns about higher education.

State Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) said students making a presence and making their voices heard to legislators is important.

“I don’t think people realize how much their voices make a difference,” she said.

OGR Director Lucas Barash-David told Orwall he wanted to know how to keep higher education funding on the table and keep tuition affordable. He told a story of a current ASUW employee who has to support her family and pay off her loans at the same time.

“I just hope that debt doesn’t become a barrier to higher education,” Barash-David told Orwall.

ASUW Student Senate Speaker Isaac Prevost said he’s attended the reception three times and has always enjoyed the casual conversations he can have with the legislators. Compared to lobby day, he said there is more time to gain more perspectives of the Legislature.

Saha said the ultimate goal for this event is to let students know that legislators are accessible and they should be communicating with their legislators about higher education.

“We accomplished a two-year tuition freeze from our lobbying efforts and increased funding for higher ed,” Saha said. “[The legislators] should keep fighting for it, and we want our voices heard.”

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