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WA Bill Aims for Greater Diversity at Community, Technical Colleges

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A bill to increase diversity at Washington state community and technical colleges would bring more mental-health resources to campuses. (Davide Angelini/Adobe Stock)
A bill to increase diversity at Washington state community and technical colleges would bring more mental-health resources to campuses. (Davide Angelini/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA - Producer, Contact
March 5, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A measure in Olympia could make Washington state's community and technical colleges more diverse.

Senate Bill 5194 aims to increase access for people of color and low-income communities, to promote racial equity in these schools.

Isaac Tchao is a student fellow with Communities for Our Colleges, which is supporting the bill. He said one of the provisions would increase mental-health resources at community and technical colleges, which would help students who are struggling outside the classroom.

"The whole idea here is just to really provide that support for students to be able to continue their education and really achieve their potential," said Tchao.

The bill also includes the Guided Pathway program, which would help students navigate school from enrollment to graduation.

Although the bill has no state capital budget cost, it would require colleges to spend money on planning.

It's now in the Senate Rules Committee. Bills must pass out of their house of origin by Tuesday to stay alive in the Legislature.

The bill also would increase accessibility for undocumented students.

Lizbeth Rivera-Estrada is a student at Wenatchee Valley College and DACA recipient. She said one important provision would change residency requirements, which would be helpful for students who arrive in the state at the end of high school.

"Previously," said Rivera-Estrada, "you had to have a three-year residency in Washington state to be able to apply to a community college and then get in-state tuition, which is a lot more affordable. And so, this residency requirement would be changed to that of one year."

Both students said one of the most important parts of the bill would convert part-time professors into full-time faculty at community and technical colleges. Tchao said students develop relationships with teachers who may not be around the next semester.

"We really believe a strong investment into our faculty is a really strong investment into the students as well," said Tchao, "and into the whole next generation of people who are going to be sort of helping move society forward."

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