AUBURN, Wash. — Student protest leader Amanda Bentz gets emotional when talking about the Green River College.
"These are my friends," she says. "Like this is the community."
The Auburn institution has provided an education for more than half a century to South King County communities.
"Auburn, Covington, Maple Valley, Kent," she said, reciting a partial list.
Bentz has helped lead nearly a year's worth of protests concerned that education here is under threat.
Green River students and faculty accuse President Eileen Ely of mismanaging millions of dollars. An example they cite is the auto body program slated to be housed in the new trades building. It was cut soon after construction was completed.
Now the protesters are appealing to the State Legislature.
"Our goal is for them to be able to look into files or look into the funding and look at the real budget and the real numbers," said Bentz.
But in a lengthy email to students, Ely says their budget is in the red.
State funding dropped by $1.5 million; an additional $1 million in temporary funding will go away. Faculty salaries rose $970,000 while tuition has dropped by $700,000. And the school must chip in $270,000, its portion of a health care law suit that showed part time employees were cheated of some benefits.
It adds up to a deficit of nearly $4.5 million.
But Bentz says they believe poor management is to blame.
"Yes, absolutely," she said. "There's no doubt in my mind."
On May 24, the budget committee will make recommendation on what programs should be cut. The College Council will do its own review. Then on May 31st, the Council will present a final set of recommendations to the College President.