This last year at LCC, I met inspiring people, learned that I can claim my identity through personal narrative and have lasting impact on our community.
Flashback to 2012, Mario Parker-Milligan, our ASLCC President during the time when students paid 50 percent of the total revenue resource to the overall college budget. LCC is funded in a multi-faceted way, however student dollars are still the lion’s share, followed by a close second from the state of Oregon’s contribution and the remainder is a combination of other resources. What is significant is that as the major contributors to the college budget we are not fully present within our governance system where major decisions are made about us.
This is not unique to Lane — it is inherent in the larger political system. What is unique to Lane is that our Board of Education members were the first to pass cultural competency, if I remember correctly, before it became mandatory by the state. Not to paint a rose-tinted picture, remember Parker-Milligan was having tuition and fee negotiations during economic crisis for education as a whole.
Fast forward to 2013 and Anayeli Jimenez, ASLCC vice president, was participating in major discussions on cultural competency. Meanwhile Paul Zito and Michael Weed, ASLCC presidents during 2013/14 and 2014 Fall term respectively, dedicated themselves to the Food Pantry. During Weed and Malisa Ratthasing’s Administration, students rallied together in the state capital, bringing more than 130 students from LCC.
Why? Because we, the community college students of Oregon, needed $550 million from the state to avoid tuition and fee increases. And you know what? We got it.
Our very own students packed hearing rooms and led silent demonstrations about LCC student debt. Students were even arrested during protests against returning taxpayer money in the form of individual checks, which if you are a student is about $11 vs. $3,000+ if you are in the top income bracket. Rather we called on them to invest it in The Education Fund. All the while, our institutions and teachers have been picking up the slack to keep our college running and, ultimately, the lack of state funding had been mitigated at the expense of the students.
While some may argue that students should pay for their education out of pocket should they chose to attend, those of us that have faced reality’s cold glass ceiling or maybe only heard about it as a luxury, not guaranteed to the non-traditional, understand that education doesn’t just deliver us from economic disparity but a poverty of the spirit. Everyone deserves a quality education where they claim their own success.
The G.I. Bill Program for veterans has demonstrated a promised economic return on investments in education. Every $1 invested in those who wouldn’t have otherwise attended college yielded over a $6 economic return. Point being, when our state invests in education, the whole community benefits.
It is crucial that we spend this year building meaningful relationships within our governance system so that when state budget talks come around in 2017, we don’t spend time arguing but address the dysfunctional tax structure in Oregon.
The root cause of underfunded education in Oregon seems to point to Measure(s) 5, 47 and 50 which adjusted and decreased property taxes, which had been a larger chunk of the budgets for LCC and Oregon’s entire education system.
To bring this back to the students, it is crucial we meet at the intersection that brings us together, learn how to be allies to each other so that we can deliver a robust representation our narratives in support of education in Oregon and the urgent need to secure the future’s funding for education without increasing the costs to students. As I have spent time coalescing with student leaders across Oregon one thing is clear, Lane Community College students inspire and impact lasting change. We are an example school across Oregon and the nation.
My proposal is simple; get involved. Find a club, come talk to ASLCC. We need to take part in reclaiming funding for education to age 21 as a basic human right.
Let’s take part in bettering the community around us because the next generation of students are counting on us to be courageous and innovative. Let’s make sure at the next rally, we engage voters about the current legislation that will increase state revenue in an equitable way, clearing a path for Oregon’s most vulnerable.
One thing is for sure, students have amazing resources here at LCC and this year is the first in the next bicentennial. It is 2015 and we have a community to support and our success to claim. Welcome Back.