Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bills, bills, bills

As another committee cut-off date approaches next week, legislators are focused on hearing bills and deciding whether or not they pass to the next committee. Bills impacting the community and technical college system continue to move through the Legislature as higher education issues remain a topic of conversation at the state Capitol.

Senate committee hears State Need Grant bill

The House Higher Education Committee held a hearing yesterday on SSB 5195 which expands State Need Grant (SNG) eligibility to Western Governors University (WGU) students. Currently, these students are not eligible to apply or receive SNG financial aid.

Former CTC and current WGU students testified in support of this bill with many citing access as a barrier to their higher education needs.

Jean Floten, WGU chancellor, said the bill is about accessibility for students at a university geared toward working adults. Floten, a former Bellevue College president, noted that the missions of WGU and CTCs are similar in that both have an open door policy to benefit any student wanting to earn a degree or certificate. WGU has 1,861 students that have transferred from the CTC system, a number that continues to grow (Washington Student Achievement Council).

Prime sponsor Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said the bill is about equity and providing opportunities for all students wanting to further their careers. “[I consider this] truly to be a jobs bill, particularly for the more rural and geographically challenged parts of our state.”

Link to testimony.

Veterans early registration bill heard

The Senate Higher Education Committee held a public hearing yesterday on HB 1109 Tuesday that makes it easier for veterans entering higher education institutions.

Prime sponsor Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, testified to the importance of ensuring the state’s veterans have access to higher education opportunities. “[This bill] makes it easier for veterans to train for new careers by going back to school … We are winding down two wars at the same time we’ve been cutting higher education,” Hansen said.

Scott Copeland, SBCTC policy associate, testified in support, explaining how it will help veteran students be successful, “This is a great bill for [the CTC system] ... The earlier we can get veteran students — and sometimes their families — registered, enrolled, and ready to roll, then they can begin that process and not wait for book money, housing money, or tuition money to arrive on our college campuses.”

Others testifying in support of the bill included the Veterans Legislative Coalition and the Council of Presidents.

Link to testimony (begins at 1:05).

Job Skills Program bill heard

Yesterday, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard SHB 1247 that assists small businesses wanting to participate in the Job Skills Program by eliminating the dollar-for-dollar match currently required under state law.

Prime sponsor Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, explained how the bill would further assist businesses looking to train new and incumbent workers. “[This bill] makes it easier for small businesses to train their employees in partnership with the community colleges … it is a win-win … [it helps create] real transferrable skills and credentials,” Hansen said.

Anna Nikolaeva, SBCTC Job Skills Program administrator, testified in support of the bill and shared how current program guidelines disproportionately impacts small businesses. Nikolaeva shared, “[This bill] reduces financial requirements for small businesses and allows participation for small businesses in this program. The current dollar-for-dollar match simply prices small businesses out of this program.”

Mark Mitsui, North Seattle Community College president, shared how the Job Skills Program has led to increased economic growth in the community. “Economic development is a major focal area of our college. We believe we are here to help businesses and our local neighborhoods flourish … the return on investment [for the Jobs Skills Program] is pretty incredible. We think that if we can reach more small businesses in our area, we’re going to be able to serve more local residents and see some improvement for the entire area,” Mitsui testified.

Keith Zeiler, Vaupell general manager, testified in support of the bill, sharing Vaupell’s success after using the Job Skills Program to skill up its workforce. Vaupell manufactures thermoplastic and composite products for aircraft interiors, medical, and commercial markets. “This program works,” Zeiler said. “In the past two years I’ve hired 145 people … 250 employees have gone through 70,000 hours of Lean training which has led to productivity improvements … [Vaupell] could not have done any of this without the support of North Seattle Community College.”

Link to the SBCTC Job Skills Program.

Link to testimony (begins at 1:11).

Walla Walla Community College earns top honors

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program presented Walla Walla Community College with the award for Community College Excellence on March 19.

Along with co-awardee, Santa Barbara City College, WWCC was selected from more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide and will receive $400,000 for program support.

This award is nationally recognized for high achievement and performance in the community college system. Higher education institutions are selected for outstanding achievement in degree completion, student job placement after college, and helping low-income students succeed.

Josh Wyner, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program executive director, celebrated WWCC’s community partnerships to better assist students entering the job market. “Walla Walla Community College’s visionary leaders stay on top of local economic job trends and job growth, and the entire college provides the kind of excellent training that students need to access well-paying jobs and that employers know will ensure future investments in the regional economy will pay off,” Wyner said.

Link to award press release.

Bills move during executive session on Tuesday

The House Higher Education Committee voted the following bills out of committee:

·       SSB 5195 – expanding State Need Grant to WGU students

·       SB 5318 – removing one-year waiting period for veterans to be eligible for resident tuition

·       2SSB 5624 – aligning STEM programs with applied baccalaureate programs

·       SB 5712 – encouraging CTCs to use multiple assessment measures

The Senate Higher Education Committee voted the following bills out of committee:

·       HB 1109 – early registration for student veterans

·       SHB 1247 – Job Skills Program

·       SHB 1686 – changing ‘GED’ to ‘high school equivalency’ in statue

·       SHB 1736 – increasing operating efficiencies in higher education institutions