Posted December 6, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion
 
 

Does Evergreen Prioritize ‘Trustafarians’ Over Washington Residents?


I am a transfer student. I spent a little over three years at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) earning an Associate of Arts with Anthropology Emphasis and a vocational certificate in land rights and ethical cultural preservation. My first two years of community college were possible because my mother saved portions of state aid my family received while I was in high school.

Getting married in the summer of 2009 afforded my husband and I independent status. Financial aid I received due to my independent status paid for the following year of school. A scholarship based on financial need paid for the last two courses required for my certificate and emphasis, since SPSCC financial aid refused to pay for classes outside minimal Associates of Arts requirements.

Transferring to Evergreen offered hope, opportunities, options. I could pursue a dual degree, find a campus position, and get a bachelors soon enough to start working and support my household. Being immersed in the Olympia area prior to attending Evergreen, I was familiar with the college’s reputation for attracting “trustafarians” or trust-fund hippies/anarchists/’insert nonconformist term here.’ Nevertheless, the college’s strong interdisciplinary curriculum remained promising, as did the low tuition costs.

I am three quarters into my time at Evergreen. Most of my programs have been excellent, as have the faculty involved. I receive adequate funding for tuition and almost enough to pay rent with each quarter if I attend full-time. Working outside of program demands is absolutely necessary for me. I often rely on the food bank, since grocery shopping or buying something on campus is rarely an option. Preparing for a full day away from the house involves cooking food from scratch and carrying adequate amounts of it with me throughout the day. Long hours on campus demanded by many full-time programs conflict with my need to work outside of school, as well as my meal constraints. I live two exits down Highway 101 from Evergreen, but it is a 40-60 minutes bus ride to school from my apartment.

My living situation does not contrast from “locals” I meet as much as it contrasts from students who receive aid from family, who moved from out of state to Olympia expressly to attend Evergreen, and who consequently live on or close to campus. From my perspective, programs seem geared toward students with large amounts of time and money to engage in out-of-class study groups, costly field trips, pre-quarter textbook purchases, and unexpected-yet-required supplies.

How Accessible is the Olympia campus for Low-Income, Local, and Working Students?

According to “Illuminating the Students in the Shadows,” a powerpoint presentation available at evergreen.edu, the highest numbers of transfer students come from Washington state, followed by California and Oregon. In 2006, 69% came from a two-year and 29% came from another four-year, according to “Shadows.” In 2006, an overwhelming number came from SPSCC followed by Centralia College, Pierce College, Seattle Central Community College and Tacoma Community College, according to the powerpoint.

A commonality I see among the two-year institutions with the highest transfer rates to Evergreen’s Olympia campus is the high amount of economic need in and around the areas the college’s serve. The choice by many transfer students to stay in-state is undoubtedly a cash-conservation decision in many cases.

According to evergreen.edu, Tacoma and Grays Harbor campuses offer class times and dates designed to work around busy schedules, even if it is a single program available per quarter. Reservation-based programs and Masters degree programs are evening and weekend/variable schedule courses, according to evergreen.edu. Most day and full-time programs, however, do not post confirmed schedules accessible from the catalog or anywhere on the website. For brevity’s sake, I leave [the] website’s accessibility issues to future opinion columns.

Sara Ryan is a current faculty member who recently applied for the Evening and Weekend Studies program dean position. On Saturday, December 1, interviews were held for the position as an event open to the public. Ryan addressed how the college actively prioritizes an out-of-state applicant during her interview. According to Ryan, she has noticed an increased trend in Evergreen’s outreach aimed at potential out-of-state students in an effort to offset state budget cuts to higher education.

That Ryan brought this up in a conversation on Evening and Weekend Studies is no coincidence. Evening and Weekend Studies are most popular among students with schedule obligations such as work, family, or a commute. Such obligations are naturally more common among established local residents. If my conclusions about income and locality are correct, it follows that students with time constraints are more serious about leaving college with improved career prospects. Essentially, the college de-prioritizes the financial mobility of low-income in-state students and local low-income students by seeking out-of-state funding.

So many academic and extracurricular efforts give lip-service to supporting the needs of the local community. My challenge to the structure of our well-intentioned institution is that it puts its money where its mouth is, literally and figuratively, in future decisions concerning student welfare.

 By Cassandra Johnson-Villalobos