Our community and technical college system is essential to Washingtonians, and it impacts every family in the state. Our CTCs put over $20 billion annually into Washington’s economy in ways big and small, and they offer a pathway to quality jobs and a secure future for over 65% of the higher education students in our state—nearly half of whom are students of color.
Our state legislature doesn’t see the value. For more than 30 years, they’ve consistently underfunded our CTC system, and reneged on the need to make education an affordable path for our communities. In 2021, the Washington Student Achievement Council found that over 40% of CTC students faced food insecurity. In a survey done in 2022, more than a third of higher education students in Washington experienced housing insecurity in the last 12 months, with more than 10% experiencing homelessness. Students report failing to complete degrees because of unmet needs: childcare cost and availability, the need to work to pay tuition, the lack of mental health support, and the paucity of wraparound services overall. Refusing to fund student support is refusing to support students.
Students are not the only ones who pay the price for legislative inaction. CTC workers are paid roughly 12% less than workers in comparable states, and 12% less than K-12 teachers in Washington, which leads directly to double-digit turnover in many job classifications. Washington is one of the most expensive states to live in, and underfunding CTC faculty and staff is a direct threat to future prosperity. If the legislature cannot fund pay increases for faculty and staff and set standards for part-time pay equity, we’re in trouble. We cannot build a bridge to the future if we cannot afford the hammer and nails!
Students succeed when their faculty reflect the diversity of the student body. Students succeed when their faculty are stable from quarter to quarter and they can build the meaningful relationships that help students persist. Students succeed when colleges treat them as whole people and have the resources they need, whether counseling or childcare. Students succeed when the legislature invests in them.
We are cheating our students and shortchanging our future with underfunding. If we really want that bridge to the future, we can no longer afford to cut programs and faculty and staff and expect the same results. Our CTCs must be able to compete in a world of rising costs: faculty and staff must be able to live in the communities they work in just as their students do.
We are faculty, classified staff, exempt staff, students, and families uniting to tell our elected leaders and local administrations: the time for undervaluing our students and the CTC workforce is over. The legislature must include robust funding to keep our programs open and thriving: for our students, our future nurses, technicians, carpenters, mechanics, childcare providers, addiction counselors, coders, and many more. We are a critical part of the bridge to the future, and we stand united to call on our state’s leaders: you must invest in us. You must invest in the future by investing in the present. This cannot be delayed. It is essential.