Community and technical colleges across the state are frustrated with legislative inaction on investment. As a result, those faculty and staff planned a week of action April 15-18.
Bellevue College (BC) was one of the 11 schools that participated. On Tuesday, April 16, BC faculty, staff and administrators joined together, calling for the Legislature to invest in community and technical colleges for the sake of students, employers and the community.
From 1 p.m.-2 p.m., about 40 faculty, staff and administrators met outside the school’s fountain and held signs that said “Attract and Keep Great Educators.”
Sue Nightingale, BC’s faculty union president and a biology professor, said the rally’s intention was to draw attention to the lack of funding in higher education. Nightingale said she and her colleagues supported the McCleary Decision last year.
“We fully support McCleary and we’re glad it went through, but we want to make it clear that we’re not done yet,” she said. “Getting through high school isn’t the end of education as most high school graduates pursue some form of higher education.”
BC president Jerry Weber said the college is unable to provide competitive compensation for its employees. As a result, the college struggles to retain high quality faculty and staff.
Weber said the community and technical college system serves more than 370,000 students each year, and at Bellevue College they serve more than 30,000.
“The lack of competitive compensation impacts our 500 full-time faculty and staff as well as our 800 adjunct faculty,” he said. “Based on a salary study commissioned by the state, our faculty now make 12 percent less than those in peer states. Likewise, our classified staff who support us need to be able to focus on their work rather than struggling with the cost of housing and transportation.”
Jody Laflen, BC’s Institute of Business and Information Technology dean, said the lack of competitive compensation has a negative effect on the school’s technology and nursing departments.
“These fields are so important in our current society and our students need them,” she said. “It’s hard to find and retain high quality faculty when they can’t afford to live in the area.”
As a result, Laflen said the students suffer.
“A lot of the students at BC can’t afford the typical four-year university education, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve high quality education,” she said.
At the rally, Weber said he was excited to see faculty, staff and administrators work together, “externally focused.”
“We’re here to make the case that the state needs to fund higher education,” he said.
For more information about Washington community and technical college rallies for higher education, go online to http://reinvestinourcolleges.org/.