Student Basic Needs, Native American Scholarship, Enrollment Emerge as Major Themes

Evergreen staff
Feb 07, 2023

With the first month of a four-month legislative session behind us, Evergreen has been engaged on bills that would help students across Washington meet their basic needs and grant scholarships to Native American students.

In conversations with legislators from all parts of the state, we are also talking about the beginning of our enrollment turn-around and underlining the need for strong investment in our students, staff and faculty. We are addressing legislator questions about how, after many years of declining enrollment and tuition revenue, we can get the college on a sustainable long-term footing. 

Some of the initiatives we’re talking about include one-year certificates in business and administration, computer science, environmental solutions, and video and audio production. We’ve started a new early childhood education program at our Tacoma campus.  We’ve done some targeted outreach to people who have earned some college credit but quit before they earned a credential. In partnership with the faculty union, we have an all-hands-on-deck effort to make sure that admitted students know about the pragmatic, personalized education they can get at Evergreen. And we’re working to start up a baccalaureate program serving incarcerated students in Washington state.

On January 27 Evergreen Vice President for Tribal Relations, Arts and Cultures Kara Briggs gave moving testimony to the House Committee on Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development on a bill to establish a Native American scholarship program in our state.  Vice President Briggs, who contributed to the bill’s original language, told how many Washington tribes including her own, the Sauk-Suiattle, lacked the resources to give their members financial support for college. She noted that Native people in Washington are consistently among the poorest people, the least likely to finish high school, and yet the most likely to be needed to take leadership roles in tribes and in urban Indian organizations. This bill is currently in committee. 

Government Relations Director Sandy Kaiser used data provided by Evergreen’s Basic Needs Center to testify January 31 in favor of a bill by Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent) that would expand state support to public colleges to help students meet their basic needs. 

Students across the state and at every institution are struggling to pay for housing, food and utilities, which puts at risk their ability to succeed in college. Evergreen’s data shows how in fiscal year 2022 we helped 44 students who were experiencing hardship, and that 29 of those were able to finish that quarter, 65 percent. We know this kind of quick-response/low-barrier support makes an incredible difference to student success. The bill is currently in committee. 
On February 2, Evergreen trustees Kris Peters and Shane Everbeck joined regents and trustees from Washington’s other public colleges in a day-long series of meetings with multiple legislators. They made the case for continued support for public higher education and waved the Evergreen flag high, noting the unique students we serve and emphasizing the value of an Evergreen education. 

Along with higher education officials from other institutions, Evergreen President John Carmichael presented on enrollment at a Senate higher education committee work session on February 3.  He noted the college’s 17 percent increase in new student enrollment this academic year, while emphasizing that Evergreen still has work to do in raising overall student numbers. Later that day he and Sandy Kaiser met with House higher education chair Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue) to talk about the college’s budget in advance of upcoming recommendations for public college funding.