‘Quintuple whammy’ threatens BCC

It’s horrifically ironic.

It’s horrifically ironic.

Just when we more than ever need to enhance the skills and capabilities of our workforce, and just as youth and adults more than ever need further post-secondary training to get, keep and advance in good careers – the door to higher education begins to swing shut.

No less than five ominous factors threaten to place a ‘quintuple whammy’ on local students, jeopardizing the dreams of many for a better life through higher education:

Higher oil prices have increased the cost of commuting and of most goods needed for daily living.

Government leaders are considering tolls on both floating bridges as a way to finance necessary transportation projects.

Rather than being subsidized through tax dollars, more educational costs have been passed onto the students.

Lenders have raised the eligibility requirements for student loans, leaving thousands with insufficient resources for college.

Layoffs, higher living costs, mortgage issues and a slumping real estate market have stirred financial havoc.

We all feel the pinch to some extent. It is especially hard for those on fixed and low incomes.

The increased cost of gasoline could add as much as $10 – $20 per week to the cost of education for anyone who must drive to campus. Bridge tolls could cost $15 per week [or more] for the 2,000 Bellevue Community College students who cross Lake Washington to get to campus.

One might assume a student could simply switch to a college closer to home. Those who come from a distance generally are doing so because the program they need is unique to BCC – such as the opportunity to do original genomics research, or to study business intelligence or interior design, or to study any of a number of health-care fields, including our bachelor’s degree in radiation and imaging sciences.

Neither is mass transit or carpooling a sufficient solution. Thousands of our students cannot afford to be tied to bus or carpool schedules because they must juggle classes, jobs and daycare schedules for small children into a single day. Alternate driving routes are not a good answer because of the major traffic congestion that already exists on I-405 is sure to worsen as bridge tolls are imposed.

To these formidable obstacles add rising tuition and textbook costs, recent actions by lenders that now prevent a large proportion of students from qualifying for student loans, and a problematic economy that continues to bring more layoffs and foreclosures and higher costs for the basics, like food – and you have an army of problems trampling five-abreast over the futures of many students.

The challenges have become insurmountable for many people with rigid job schedules, family responsibilities or low income – which together make up a large portion of our student body. We know some of our students have even slept in their cars to reduce expenses. Others can no longer afford education, abandoning their aspirations for family-wage jobs and a more promising future. And, all of us lose well-qualified people to fill the rising skill gaps in our economy.

At BCC we are working to ease the situation by rapidly adding to our existing catalogue of hundreds of online courses and hybrids (classes that are partly online and partly in-person), and are examining other ways we may be able to reduce travel or travel expense to campus to help students economize.

But we also need help in meeting these challenges. Students need better mass-transit options, and transit and bridge-toll subsidies for those with low-incomes.

The unusual confluence of economic problems is working directly against the workforce needs of local employers, and disproportionately disadvantaging low-income students – the very people the state needs to be encouraging most to attend college.

In a community that cares, this is not acceptable.

Jean Floten is president of Bellevue Community College.

More in Opinion

Time to focus on school choice in Bellevue and across America | Guest Column

by Andrew R. Campanella National School Choice Week Next week, schools, homeschool… Continue reading

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Leading with empathy in 2018 | Guest Column

By James Whitfield Special to the Reporter As president and CEO of… Continue reading

Reflecting on the ‘old’ and ringing in the “New” Year | Book Nook

The final column of KCLS’s interim director, Stephen A. Smith.

Displaced by a hurricane: Disaster relocation lessons

Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series by Bellevue… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter
Judge delivers crushing blow to Inslee’s Clean Air Rule

It was the centerpiece of the governor’s crusade against climate change. Now it’s gone.

KCLS unveils its Best Books of 2017

And the envelope, please. Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more… Continue reading

Displaced by a hurricane: The quest for housing | Guest Column

Woman describes challenges of helping family move from Puerto Rico to Bellevue

Firearms banned from state Senate gallery during sessions | The Petri Dish

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib calls for prohibiting overcoats, large bags

Is someone you love experiencing memory loss? There’s a road map to help | Guest Column

By Shirley Newell Aegis Living At first, it might seem inconsequential, misplaced… Continue reading

What tax reform means here at home | Guest Column

Tax reform proposals swirling around Washington, D.C. right now make some sweeping… Continue reading

Global warming impacts | Letter

10-year-old writes about climate change concerns