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Students to lobby in Olympia

Tyler Belan, Staff Reporter - February 13, 2013

On Monday, Central Washington University students will join other campuses across the state to partake in Lobby Day.

Lobby Day, held on President’s Day this year, gives students the opportunity to lobby for issues they want state legislators to be aware of.

Lobbying is a way to communicate with legislators and members of congress. The lobbyist speaks on behalf of student issues, makes connections and networks to get new laws or statutes passed.

Lobbying sessions differ, but for Central, this opportunity only comes once a year.

Two of the biggest issues being brought up this year are voter access and maintaining the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.

Voter access deals with the ability for any student to be able to vote statewide. Another proposed is to have 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to vote when they get their drivers license.

The G.E.T. is a prepaid college tuition program that helps parents start paying for their kids’ college education well in advance. The state sets a rate for buying 100 units -- or a year’s worth of tuition -- and those units will still buy a year’s worth of tuition in the future, no matter how much rates have risen. The program has been so popular that it’s now underfunded by about $631 million, according to an article in The Seattle Times.

Another issue during this year’s Lobby Day is college benefits for veterans and primary registration to honor their service. The goal is to exempt the one-year period that allows them to be a state citizen, thus allowing veterans to take advantage of in-state tuition costs immediately.

Brianne Wood, ASCWU President for Legislative Affairs, is one of the main rally leaders for this day.

“Our main issues are maintaining the G.E.T. program and trying to maintain or fund higher education,” Wood said.

Wood says it is a necessity to fund higher education these days, and believes without it, it is almost impossible to get a job.

There has been a table in the SURC this week to advertise the issues and recruit interested students.

Wood said hopes she can get at least 100 students to participate. Currently, she has 120, and the number continues to grow.

Students are also using a unique perspective to express their position. In order to express higher education needs, students are asking legislators to not dodge debt programs.

By writing students’ individual debt on dodgeballs, the students hope to leave a lasting impression on the legislators.

Currently, Central has a full-time liaison working on behalf of the students in Olympia. Jaclyn Sperlich is responsible for speaking about student issues and explaining what Central has to showcase.

Wood hopes to increase Veteran benefits across the state and maintain higher education funding for Central. Rallying will help pass a multiple-county legislation to assist funding for higher education. Wood said it’s important that the students go and see the Olympia process in action.

“The goal is to show that legislators are doing their job to focus on higher education,” Wood said. “What we have to do in order for this day to be successful is to show what we have as an institution, and getting students to go.”

There is no limit on the number of students who can partake on Lobby Day. Students interested in any of these issues, or who would just like to see what happens at the state capitol, are advised to sign up online and be available on Tuesday.

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