The Legislature is keeping the community and technical college system busy. Week two began with speeches in both chambers marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As of today, committee hearings of interest to the CTC system have focused on higher education funding – from high-demand programs for students and increasing faculty salaries, to capital projects across the state.
House capital budget testimony
Wayne Doty, SBCTC capital budget director, testified Monday before the House Capital Budget Committee on former Gov. Gregoire's proposed 2013-2015 capital budget.
"We support this proposal, which funds the community and technical college system's highest priority capital projects and will sustain about 4,500 jobs," Doty said, describing the potential impact of the infrastructure investment. "[These capital projects] will contribute to the vitality of every community in the state."
The Governor's proposal funded – fully or in part – the first 19 design, construction, and repair/maintenance projects on the system's capital projects priority list. Doty urged the committee to also fund construction of the College Instruction Center at Olympic College, the one remaining project on the system's list.
The proposed budget also provides authority for alternative financing for several projects:
Ÿ Green River Student Life Building – Students have contributed over $4 million to replace this 36-year-old building.
Ÿ Whatcom Student Recreation Center – Health and physical education classes, athletics and recreational facilities help increase retention and student success.
Ÿ South Puget Sound Lacey Campus – Classes currently located at the Hawks Prairie Center and at the Mottman campus will be consolidated at the new Lacey campus.
During a Jan. 16 House Higher Education Committee work session on higher education policy priorities, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, applauded the community and technical college system's collaborative approach to prioritizing capital projects. "Our community and technical college system, managed through the state board, runs an internal priority system…with rigorous discipline," he said. Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, also credited the CTC system: "(As a long-term member of the House Capital Budget Committee) I just think we need to acknowledge that our community colleges and tech colleges… do one of the best jobs we see in the state in ranking their list and they need to be applauded for the effort. It's truly a model not only for our state but for around the nation."
Senate committee hears higher education budget priorities
The Jan. 21 Senate Ways and Means Committee focused on higher education operating budget requests. Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, gave an overview of the unique community and technical college demographics.
"We have lots of returning and non-traditional students … 43 percent work, 30 percent have children," Brown said. He also pointed out that 40 percent of the graduates at our state's four-year colleges and universities start a community and technical college, and 35 percent of engineering majors at four-year institutions transferred from a CTC.
Brown highlighted the CTC legislative agenda and operating budget requests, noting that the CTC system places the greatest emphasis on students. "Our biggest ask is for additions in faculty and staff, but our number one ask is more students ... we have a request for more aerospace, professional-technical, all of the types of students in our system. [The CTCs] do jobs."
Brown urged the Legislature to minimize tuition increases and maximize financial aid. "Ten to 12 years ago, we were probably about … 24th in the nation for tuition [rates], right now we're seventh highest," he said.
Pamela Transue, Tacoma Community College president, said funding high-demand degree programs will get students into good jobs and meet employers' needs.
"We have long waiting lists for our health programs and we'd like to increase capacity, which additional high-demand FTEs would allow us to do," she said. Transue also illustrated the important role faculty play in student success and stressed the need to recruit and retain quality faculty by, among other things, transitioning more part-time faculty to full-time positions.
"One of the effects of the reductions of the last five years has been…16 percent fewer full-time positions at [Tacoma Community College]," she said.
CTCs are also moving students through college faster with accelerated instruction and improving completion rates. "The Student Achievement Initiative provides an incentive for [increasing student success] and recognition for those efforts," Transue said.
The Washington Student Achievement Council provided an overview of the State Need Grant, the College Bound Scholarship program and the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. A hot topic already, legislative proposals continue to circulate about whether to close or keep the GET program. The Council of Presidents and four-year universities also testified about legislative funding priorities this session.
Link to testimony.
Preview of Friday Leg News
The Jan. 25 edition of Leg News will feature highlights from work sessions discussing the Student Achievement Initiative, the Common Core Project, and online education.