Long day of rallying for higher education concludes with a panel discussion at City Hall

Brianna Gibbs // THE WESTERN FRONT

Whatcom County residents packed the Bellingham City Hall council chambers Tuesday evening to learn how proposed budget cuts to higher education could impact Bellingham and the rest of the county.

Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry, moderated the event and said state support for higher education would be cut in half with the passage of the governor’s proposed budget.

Student representatives from Western and Bellingham Technical College served on a five-member panel that answered audience questions.

Former Bellingham mayor Tim Douglas, who also served on the panel, said two-year universities have seen a 24 percent increase in enrollment with a 20 percent decrease in state funding. He added that Bellingham is a college town, and if those colleges cannot function, the local economy will suffer.

“All someone has to do is hang out downtown in August to see what I mean,” Douglas said.

Also on the panel were Robin Halliday, president and chairman of the Technology Alliance Group for Northwest Washington Board of Directors, and Catherine Riordan, Western’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The full discussion will be available on Bellingham TV Channel 10 later this week.

This was a followup event to the Rally to Restore Education, which took place at Western Tuesday morning. You can read the Front’s full story on the rally here.

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