Student leaders meet with Governor Jay Inslee

Earlier this week, student leaders at Washington State University Vancouver were invited to an intimate meeting with Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee. On Thursday, these students, members of student government, student diversity and media organizations, finally had the chance to meet with their state’s highest elected official. The topics discussed: budget concerns, education and community involvement.

As college students, each attendee had a personal stake in the discussion on the cost of higher education. Almost unanimously, they voiced concerns about the rising cost of tuition and the years of debt that accompany payment. The governor responded to these concerns by outlining his current plans to freeze tuition and increase state investment in education, including increased access to financial aid and expanding scholarship opportunities to 15,000 additional students statewide.

Inslee then called upon students to make their voices heard to legislature, highlighting opportunities to do so as an organized group, such as during the upcoming Coug Day at the Capitol. He advised students to arrive prepared with facts and solutions, not just problems. “It’s easy to tell a legislator to take care of me; it’s harder to say how,” the governor said.

The governor also talked about his plan to fund these initiatives, including a capital gains tax affecting the upper 1% of earners in Washington state, as well as a carbon emissions ceiling that would both incentivize greener development in the state and generate revenue. Regarding this second initiative, Inslee said he is trying to ensure that the current environment of Washington will be preserved for future generations. Another budding source of revenue is the nascent marijuana industry in this state, which the governor said was only a small source of revenue currently, but shows great potential for growth.

As the meeting wound down, Gov. Inslee asked students to tell their own stories. One student, Lili Salazar, spoke to the impact that the DREAM Act has had on expanding access to higher education for undocumented students. Other students also shared their own struggles, including getting access to student services, balancing work and school and contending with growing financial burdens, such as paying for graduate school or anticipating debt loads after graduation.

Gov. Inslee restated the importance of student organization in engaging government and concluded by discussing his own path into politics. He described his entry into politics as an aside to concern for his children’s education, which ultimately carried him into political office. “Find a passion within your community,” he said, “you can go into politics from any field.” He said college students are often the best advocates for a cause, and legislators understand the investments made in them.

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