Friday, February 1, 2013

Week three spotlights CTCs, Gov. lauds students

Community and technical colleges have worked hard this week! Presidents and trustees were in town for annual meetings, Gov. Inslee and legislators addressed the CTCs, and committees heard bills important to the CTC system.

The Feb. 6 edition of Legislative News will include today's student rally where more than 400 CTC students gathered to show support for funding community and technical colleges.

Governor and legislators address trustees

Gov. Jay Inslee gave the keynote speech at the Trustees Association for Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC) winter conference Tuesday evening, crediting the value, flexibility, and job-relevant training offered at two-year colleges.
"It's a treat … to share the evening with the people who run the single best value and the most efficient system in the state of Washington," he said.
Inslee painted the CTC system as a powerful incentive for businesses to locate and grow in Washington. Recalling a conversation to lure a transmission-systems firm to Washington, Gov. Inslee said, "I talked to him about the fact that we have a community and technical college system that is directly aligned with the demands of our manufacturing, engineering and software-based economy."

Inslee also underscored the importance of aligning Washington's public education system from preschool through college.
Tuesday's event honored "Transforming Lives" award recipients and nominees, students and graduates who overcame barriers to pursue degrees and certificates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or other high-demand professions.
"[These stories] are emblematic of the treasure that is our community and technical college system," Inslee said.
During the TACTC conference on Wednesday, several legislators addressed the 200-plus trustees, presidents, and other guests gathered.
Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, House Higher Education Committee ranking member, said higher education should be affordable for everyone who wants a two-year or four-year degree or training.
He said legislators are working on a bill – nicknamed 50/50 by 2020 – which aims to restore state support of higher education to at least 50 percent by the year 2020.
Haler suggested that, unfortunately, the general public paints two-year colleges with the same brush as the four-year colleges when it comes to the perception of high salaries and annual bonuses.
Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, House Higher Education Committee member, said the community and technical college system is most vulnerable right now — when the economy is improving and enrollments decreasing — but that two-year colleges fill a vital niche in providing skilled workers for available jobs.
He suggested that middle-skills jobs — those that pay around $15 per hour and require less than a bachelor's degree — are the community and technical colleges' stock-in-trade. A shortage of these employees spells trouble for Washington's economy, said Reykdal. Importing employees from other states is not a viable option because they are less likely to relocate than those with bachelor's degrees.
Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, Senate Ways and Means Committee chair, said developing a sustainable budget is key to protecting higher education funding. The budget ax often falls on colleges and universities because, unlike K-12 schools, they lack constitutional protections and 12 years' worth of parent advocacy. Hill said he wants to measure success by the results produced, not by the amount of money spent. "I don't want to fund things anymore; I want to buy things," he said.
Hill said the Majority Coalition is exploring options for higher education funding, such as giving colleges a predictable, baseline budget every year, indexed to inflation. Any new money would flow into a performance-based system. For community and technical colleges, new money would go into the existing Student Achievement Initiative.

Holistic approach to student services

Integrating higher education planning, employment, and social support services can make all the difference in getting students through school and into jobs. That was the message heard Wednesday at a work session of the House Higher Education Committee.
Mark Mitsui, North Seattle Community College president, highlighted the college's Opportunity Center for Employment and Education, a one-stop hub where students can get seamless services from the college, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Employment Security Department. "What we're basically doing is helping people escape poverty," he said. One student, he said, rode his bike 48 miles round-trip to work, but found centralized services at the Opportunity Center. Recently, he was admitted into an RN program and is on his way to a high wage, high-demand profession. "Can you imagine trying to ride your bike from agency to agency in order to get help and then try to make your way to class on time?"
Wendy Peterson, Opportunity Center integration manager, said the Opportunity Center is the first fully-integrated, one-stop center of its kind in Washington. The center has already served 40,000 people since it opened in May 2011.
Scott Copeland, SBCTC student services policy associate, stressed the importance of Opportunity Grants, which help low-income adults train for high-wage, high-demand careers. The Opportunity Grant program provides financial assistance for tuition, fees, books, and supplies for up to 45 college credits. It also provides support services, such as advising, counseling, tutoring and college success workshops. Students have a single-point-of contact for financial aid and overall support services, and access to emergency funds for child care and transportation. "The support and wraparound services makes this unique from any other financial aid program," he said. "It's not, 'here's the money, go to school, and good luck down the road.'"
Victoria Lauber, Shoreline Community College program specialist, discussed integrated services at the college. Most students come in either because they need food assistance, are receiving unemployment, or are looking for worker retraining. Opportunity Grants, she said, allow students to start immediately the next quarter.
Gary Oertli, South Seattle Community College president, and Elizabeth Pluhta, South Seattle Community College associate vice president for college relations and advancement, spoke of the tremendous success of the "13th Year Promise Scholarship." Funded by the South Seattle Community College Foundation, the scholarships cover one-year of tuition for students at Cleveland High School and Chief Sealth High School. High school seniors attend a readiness academy, workshops, and field trips to prepare for the transition to college. And while enrolled, they participate in monthly advisory meetings. "The goal is to keep this in perpetuity so that students coming up the pipeline know that one year of college is available for them," said Oertli.

Job Skills Program bill heard in committee

House Bill 1247, prime sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, was heard in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee on Wednesday.
The Job Skills Program, administered by the SBCTC, is a customized training program to help businesses train new or current employees. HB 1247 would make it easier for small businesses earning less than $500,000 annually to participate in this program by eliminating the dollar-for-dollar funding match for training. Instead of paying for training, eligible small businesses would pay salary and benefits for those employees being trained.
Rep. Hansen explained how this bill is going to improve access for small businesses to train their workforce and ultimately, citizens get better jobs. "This bill will make sure the training we support as a state actually leads to a real credential or degree, instead of just going into a dead-end job."
The SBCTC worked over the summer with Rep. Hansen and other stakeholders in a Lean process for the JSP program to increase efficiency. Hansen told committee members, "The state board went through its own lean process [for the JSP program]. They looked at every part of this process. It was just great."
Anna Nikolaeva, SBCTC policy associate, testified in support of this bill and explained how HB 1247 helps small businesses. Nikolaeva said, "It will allow businesses to get training on their own timeline…and it will also provide more equitable access for small businesses to training funds."
Sue Ambler, Workforce Development Council of Snohomish County president and CEO, also testified in support of this bill and explained the positive impact this bill will have on employers in Snohomish County. "These are businesses who struggle in order to skill up, get new workers or frankly, to train incumbent workers so they can expand, and diversify," Ambler said.
Mary Trimarco, Department of Commerce business service division manager, also testified in support of HB 1247. Increased flexibility and matching employer needs helps small businesses and the state's economy. Trimarco testified, "It's a step in the right direction to allow businesses to have training dollars directed towards specific business needs."

Financial aid counseling for higher ed students

On Thursday, the House Higher Education Committee held a panel on financial aid counseling at higher education institutions.
Sherri Ballantyne, Bellevue College assistant dean of financial aid and veterans, and Carla Idohl-Corwin, South Puget Sound Community College, dean of student financial services, spoke on behalf of the CTCs.
Idohl-Corwin described three levels of financial aid counseling generally available:

Ÿ Up front – out in the community, high schools, parent groups, events.
Ÿ Loan entrance and exit counseling, financial aid counseling.
Ÿ Financial literacy – in-person, hands-on, offered through online modules or purchased services.
"Financial literacy can include something as simple as how to open a bank account, ranging to debt management," said Idohl-Corwin. "Many of our students don't have bank accounts."
She described how some colleges can offer a holistic approach to counseling, including wrap-around services, educational counseling, and career planning; usually for certain student populations in programs with targeted funds.
Ballantyne described some of the barriers students face in completing their education, "A lot of our students have life crises. Students struggle to stay in school with multiple issues, including unemployment, homelessness, illness, domestic abuse, elder care and child care issues, and transportation."
Veterans face an additional challenge since they no longer receive "break pay" – which means they are not paid during summer quarter or during quarter breaks. They are paid in arrears and start the quarter with no funds to pay for books.
She said the colleges also run out of funds, such as the State Need Grant.
Idohl-Corwin explained students are coming to the CTCs needing more than just educational costs covered. The need help finding external resources for basic living expenses –utility bills, evictions, food, health care, and car repairs.
Representatives from The Evergreen State College, University of Washington, and Pacific Lutheran University financial aid departments described their services.

CTCs show how system responds to industry demands

A Thursday Senate Higher Education Committee hearing focused on how higher education responds to emerging industry needs. Earlier in the week, committee members heard from panels of industry leaders who identified workforce shortages and skill gaps.
Jim Crabbe, SBCTC director of workforce education, testified that CTCs have program advisory committees comprised of industry experts to review curriculum, equipment, and facilities. These advisory committees inform colleges what needs be changed. "We look at a lot of data. … it's very important that our programs maintain the standards of the demand-decline list to make sure programs are viable."
CTCs also work with their 10 Centers of Excellence (COE) to ensure curriculum is based on industry sector needs. These COEs also align with critical sectors identified by the Department of Commerce and Gov. Inslee.
Luke Robins, Peninsula College president, gave an overview of how program data is compiled and used through industry cluster meetings. Robins testified, "The purpose of our industry cluster meetings are to … discuss current and future workforce training needs, to gage the effectiveness of current workforce training or professional technical programs that the college offers." These meetings are also critical in identifying skill gaps, exploring partnerships among the college and local employers, and collaborate on training opportunities.
Rich Cummins, Columbia Basin College president, testified about the important role CTCs play in getting students living wage jobs and are "engines for social mobility." He explained how studies show that education levels directly correlate with a person's quality of life. "There's a study out of Georgetown … 67 percent of Washington's workforce needs to have some sort of education postsecondary experience...we're currently below 40 percent. That's more than a high school degree but less than four-year degree and that's the bailiwick of the community and technical college system," Cummins said.
Representatives from four-year institutions also testified about their role in meeting industry needs.