By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Student Congress and a select number of KCC students had the privilege of meeting with state legislative representatives Lisa Marten and Amy Perruso, both of whom are members of the House Committee on Higher Education and Technology. Rep. Marten serves District 51, which includes Waimānalo, Enchanted Lake, and Lanikai. Rep. Perruso serves District 46, which includes Launani Valley and Wahiawa.

Rep. Amy Perruso represents District 46. (Photo from Hawaiʻi State Legislature)

The main discussion topics were focused on student life at KCC, as well as issues that current students face in addition to issues that prevent people from accessing higher education. According to Student Congress President Kimberly Song, one of the most pressing issues is bringing affordable food back to campus.

“We found from our spring semester survey that 40% of students skipped at least one meal every week because they simply could not afford it,” said Song. “One initiative we’re working on is to get in contact with organizations to find out if we can have them prepare ready-to-eat lunches for students, though it’s difficult to realize this goal since it’s so expensive to buy proper storage facilities and other supplies to distribute everything.”

Rep. Marten inquired as to whether students bring meals from home if they’re on a tight budget, stating that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or similar alternatives are much cheaper than buying lunch. Student Congress Communications Officer Maria Schmitz shared her experiences as an international student in response to that inquiry.

“I feel like a lot of international students don’t know how to cook and I have some friends tell me, ‘I don’t know what to cook so I’m always eating out and I can’t afford it,'” said Schmitz. “Not to mention a lot of them stay here [on campus] all day, and they have to carry everything on the bus with them.”

“Some international students may not have access to a kitchen due to their living conditions, which may prompt them to buy lunch on campus more often,” said Max Barker, a Psychology student who attended the meeting.

Rep. Lisa Marten represents District 51. (Photo from Hawaiʻi State Legislature)

Rep. Perruso was interested in learning about the financial issues students face when attending college as well as the connections that students have with faculty and staff. One of the main financial constraints for students is tuition costs. During the fall and spring semesters, Hawaiʻi residents pay $131 per credit while international students pay $248. In the summer sessions, tuition increases to $248 per credit for residents, while international students pay $253. Student Congress met with the chancellors of the UH community colleges earlier this month to discuss the possibility of lowering summer tuition for students, though the main concern is how the cost will be offset if tuition is lowered.

Additionally, the majority of student attendees agreed that the faculty at KCC is able to form meaningful connections with students and support them throughout their endeavors.

“I love the faculty here,” said Song, who is an international student. “Especially compared to German universities, professors here are much more welcoming, supportive, and so much nicer and understanding. I would say that almost 90% of my professors were amazing, and I had such a positive experience.”