Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Students, trustees, college leaders descend on Olympia

This is one of the busiest weeks each year as community and technical college trustees, presidents, and students gather for professional development and to make their voices heard. The Friday edition of Legislative News will give a wrap-up of the week's activities.


Trustees in town for conference, name Transforming Lives award winners

The Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC) is in town for its annual Legislative Contact Conference in Olympia. Tonight they will gather to honor this year's Transforming Lives award recipients and hear a special presentation by Gov. Jay Inslee. On Wednesday, participants will hear from legislators about higher education issues.


Students to rally, ask legislators to support higher ed

On Friday, Feb. 1 from noon to1:30 pm in the Capitol Rotunda, about 400 students from all 34 community and technical colleges will rally about issues affecting two-year college students including access to high-demand degree programs, tuition rates, and textbook prices.
Slate of speakers (as of today):
Ÿ Kailene Sparrs, Clover Park Technical College, and Ty Somerville, Green River Community College, lead student speakers with more to join
Ÿ Mark Mitsui, North Seattle Community College president
Ÿ Dan Altmayer, Highline Community College trustee
Ÿ Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, House Higher Education Committee chair
Ÿ Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, House Higher Education Committee ranking minority member
Ÿ Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, Senate Higher Education Committee chair
Ÿ Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater,  House Higher Education Committee member


Committee focuses on differential tuition

The House Higher Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 1043 which would repeal the ability of colleges to charge differential tuition rates.
While no colleges or universities are charging differential tuition, the option allows schools to charge higher tuition for programs that are more expensive to operate or whose graduates tend to earn higher-than-average wages. 
Although community and technical colleges are not charging differential tuition at this time, Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, testified that "State Board members and college presidents would like to keep the differential tuition option open to allow for future exploration of tuition structures."
A number of university students spoke in favor of the bill, saying that differential tuition will discourage students from choosing high-demand STEM fields.
Representatives from several four-year universities spoke in opposition to the bill.


Student indebtedness up dramatically for CTC students

On Tuesday, the House Higher Education Committee held a work session on higher education financial aid and student debt.
Rachelle Sharpe, Washington Student Achievement Council financial aid director, gave an overview of state financial aid, including the impact of tuition increases and shortfall of State Need Grant funds on student borrowing habits.
"The state need grant used to be almost fully funded," Sharpe explained, but funding has not been able to keep pace with the increased enrollment of needy students. "Due to tuition increases and more needy students enrolling, nearly 31,000 students in the state who are eligible for State Need Grant are not receiving the funds."
She said average student loan debt in Washington state has historically been lower than average, but is increasing.
Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the annual average student loan amount of needy resident undergraduates has increased for all higher education sectors in Washington, particularly for two-year college students:
Ÿ Up 17% for four-year private college students
Ÿ Up 22% for four-year public college/university students
Ÿ Up 42% for community and technical college students