We and Our Partners Are Advocating for Postsecondary Basic Needs

By United Way of King County, on February 21, 2024 | In Helping Students Graduate, News, Racial Equity, Volunteering

United Way of King County is committed to advocating for you and our neighbors. From city halls to county chambers to the Olympia State House, we and our community partners are petitioning lawmakers to enact policies that are essential to ensure a better quality of life for all residents while undoing systemic racism and economic inequality.

As the two-month legislative session nears its end, we continue to advocate for college students so they have the resources needed to focus on school and graduate. Last year, we and our partners helped pass the Student Basic Needs Act, which mandates that each institution of higher education has at least one benefits navigator to assist students in accessing public benefits, emergency assistance programs, and community resources.

Yet that legislation funded full-time navigators at only some schools. This year, we are petitioning state lawmakers to increase state funding from a three-fourths time position to a full-time, on-campus navigator at every public 2- and 4-year college.

State House in Olympia. Banner photo: members of the Post-Secondary Basic Needs Coalition meet with Marvin Rosette, legislative assistant for State Senator Karen Keiser.

We are also continuing the work with the Post-Secondary Basic Needs Coalition, a group comprising more than 250 people from across the state—including students, administrators, state agency officials, policymakers, private philanthropists, and nonprofit service providers.

Earlier this month, United Way joined members of the Post-Secondary Basic Needs Coalition at its Lobby Day at the State House in Olympia. We sat down with several members of the Coalition and asked:

What does advocating for postsecondary needs mean to you?

Stella Seth, liaison for Association for Students of Western Washington University: “This means so much to me and my family and my friends. I am from a middle-income family, and I have many siblings and all of us have gone to college, which means funds for us are very thin. I have friends who are first-generation students that are putting themselves through schools.

They have to rely on the federal government and the state to help them get through their educational processes. I have friends and peers who are parents who have to go through school and take care of their children as well.”


Nick Juno, graduate student at University of Washington: “When you think about working families, especially families that I represent, graduate students who are disproportionately older than regular students, you think about the salaries most Ph.D. students have while they are still students. They are barely scraping by, especially in the city of Seattle.

Being able to talk to legislators about the needs that students have—especially graduate students that are often less thought of—and ways to make our communities more affordable, and ways we can support [students] is inspiring to me.”


Kyra Sung, senator of legislative affairs for South Puget Sound Community College: “I’m grateful to represent my school and be a voice for my community. I notice a lot of different things in working with the Post-Secondary Basic Needs Coalition. There are a lot of things we are working on improving. The needs on my campus are food priority, mental health support, and other basic needs.

I’m grateful to speak to the legislators and individuals who are supposed to be representing our communities so we can actually get change initiated or at least start the conversation.”


Sienna Jarrard, member of the Associated Student Government at Bellevue College and a high school student: “I know it’s important, both as a high schooler seeing students who are worried about these issues and these basic needs being met, and being with college students who are facing these troubles right now.

Being able to meet with legislators will make a big impact and support students across the state no matter what level they are in their education.”


Sean Behl, student body president at Bellevue College: “I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve seen it on a daily basis: Students want to get an education, and they want to learn, but often they can’t because wraparound services aren’t funded enough. They don’t have access to housing, food, resources, and mental health. Everything is all-encompassing. It’s a huge issue.”


Urgent Action Alert on Legislative Budget

Help ensure that basic needs navigator funding is secured in the final legislative budget. The House operating budget included funding increases for navigators at colleges and universities to make whole the funding gap from last year’s legislation House bill 1559, which requires them to hire basic needs navigators. Unfortunately, the Senate operating budget did not include these increases.

Email Senator June Robinson, Senator Joe Nguyen, Senator Lynda Wilson, and Senator Chris Gildon ASAP to urge them to match the House budget’s funding to make colleges and universities whole for basic needs navigators: 

June.robinson@leg.wa.gov, Joe.nguyen@leg.wa.gov, Lynda.wilson@leg.wa.gov, Chris.gildon@leg.wa.gov.

Urge them to match the house operating budget’s funding increases for House Bill 1559 at the colleges and universities. Providing a statement on why it’s important to you is also helpful.

There is just under two weeks left in the legislative session. Contact legislators ASAP to ensure the funding stays in the final budget.


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