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Chemeketa’s higher education warriors testify at hearing

Students at the hearing holding signs to show their support for funding Oregon's public colleges and universities.

Students at the hearing holding signs to show their support for funding Oregon’s public colleges and universities.

Photo and story by Alvin Wilson

On a per student basis, Oregon currently ranks 47th out of 50 states in public higher education spending.

To help reverse this trend, four Chemeketa students and Adam Holden, Chemeketa’s civic engagement coordinator, recently traveled to Springfield to attend the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means roadshow hearing.

The students urged Oregon representatives to fund community colleges at $550 million for the 2015-17 biennium.

“This is the state Legislature’s committee that helps allocate funding within the state budget,” Holden said.

Ami Diaz, a second-year student and future corrections officer, was one of the Chemeketa students who testified.

“When I first thought of doing this, I thought it would be way too nerve-racking,” Diaz said of the hearing.

But he decided to face his fears for the good of Oregon students.

“It’s for a good cause, and it’s something that is going to affect me and maybe future generations,” he said. “I didn’t want to have regrets about how I could have done something but didn’t.”

Personal growth is what Isamar Chavez, a second-year student and future educator, said was her motivation for going.

“I think it’s important to stand up for something you believe in,” she said.

Chavez also said that she didn’t want her fears to get in the way of her personal growth.

“In my sociology class, my instructor said that first generation students don’t accomplish certain things because they’re scared to go out of their comfort zone. I think it’s true. Fear can actually paralyze individuals from trying something new that could possibly make them grow,” she said.

Jessica Arreola, a second-year education major, attended the hearing but was unable to testify because of the limited amount of time available.

“It was really disappointing because not everyone who had prepared a testimony was able to give their story,” she said. “I really wanted to share my experience with them.”

Arreola was able to get her voice heard by submitting her testimony online.

Kevin Angulo, a member of the Associated Students of Chemeketa, Chemeketa’s student government, also testified at the hearing.

“I like to represent those who prefer not to speak up. Also, I feel the need to speak on behalf of the student government at Chemeketa and have our voice heard,” he said.

“Students should care about this because it affects them directly and will decide how much they will be paying for school, so it is crucial that students take part in this.”

Holden said this was an important matter, especially to students.

“The state budget is on a two-year cycle. They have to make all these decisions about the budget before July 1st, when the new cycle starts.

“If they don’t raise the funding, then it’s likely that community colleges will have to raise tuition rates,” he said.

According to Holden, the $550 million recommendation would be distributed among 17 Oregon community colleges. The share each college received would depend on enrollment.

The $550 million wouldn’t directly lower tuition rates for public colleges in Oregon. But Holden said it would still help indirectly.

“This portion of the budget just helps the colleges fund their general operating expenses, such as paying for faculty and staff,” he said.

This in turn would potentially allow colleges to freeze tuition rates.

For information about how you can become active, contact Holden at adam.holden@chemeketa.edu

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