The Legislature’s second week ended with a flurry of activity around higher education issues and a near record number of bills introduced. Similar to last week, community and technical colleges were in the spotlight with a number of issues: performance funding, financial aid, dual credit programs, system funding, and many others.
Highlights below include summaries of our annual trustee winter conference and Transforming Lives event, presentations in committee work sessions, testimony on proposed legislation, and action taken on bills that impact the CTC system.
Trustees gather for conference, name Transforming Lives award winners
The Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC) held its annual two-day Legislative Contact Conference in Olympia to honor this year’s Transforming Lives award winners and to hear from legislators about higher education issues. A number of legislators spoke at the event on Monday, Jan. 20, starting with Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Senate Higher Education Committee chair.
Sen. Bailey acknowledged that higher education has been neglected in recent years and said legislators are paying attention to the needs of community and technical colleges. She also thanked trustees for their important role as volunteers, serving colleges and communities with their diverse perspectives, business expertise, and insights to student success.
“We know higher education is a stepping stone to a good career,” Bailey said. “We need to make sure our students have access to one of the best education systems in the nation to prepare them to be successful, productive, and drive the state’s economy.”
Majority Floor Leader Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, said the decision to freeze tuition in the 2013-2015 operating budget marks a crucial shift in the Legislature’s approach to funding higher education. Lawmakers too often divert money from higher education and filled the gap with tuition increases that burden students who are trying to move ahead in life, he said.
“What we’re doing down here in the Legislature, I think, is a fundamental re-shift away from using tuition as a backdoor tax increase to pay for other state spending,” he said. “I hope that we have realized that the organizations that you represent in this room are the absolute keys to our economic recovery and the absolute keys to the success of our state in the long run.”
Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and House Higher Education Committee chair, called upon the higher education community to accomplish three goals to set the stage for greater public support in 2015: turn the Washington Student Achievement Council’s Roadmap into actionable items, form an education advocacy network, and rethink student financial aid “from end to end.”
Without additional investments in higher education, he said, “…our state is going to continue to decline in educational attainment, meaning our state is going to decline. We cannot have that. We’ve got to turn it around now.”
Lawmakers focus on performance funding
David Prince, SBCTC research director, highlighted the community and technical college system’s nationally recognized Student Achievement Initiative (SAI) during a work session before the House Higher Education Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
Under SAI – the system’s performance-based funding approach – colleges earn a portion of their funding based on results, not just enrollments. Points, and funding, are awarded when students reach key academic achievement points that propel them toward certificates, degrees and transfers. The number of degrees and certificates completed at Washington’s community and technical colleges increased by 46 percent from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012.
A new version of SAI launched this year places a new emphasis on student retention and completion.
The extraordinary thing about the SAI, Prince said, is that it measures student progress incrementally as students move through college.
“The performance measures recognize all of the missions within the community college system: adult basic education, transfer education, professional-technical education. We take that all into account in one measurement system,” Prince said. Through SAI, colleges learn “Here’s where your students were in the beginning of the year, here’s what’s happening to them quarter-by-quarter, here’s where you know they need to move next.”
Prince pointed to innovative approaches that are improving student success at Bellingham Technical College, Tacoma Community College, and Walla Walla Community College.
The Student Achievement Initiative was also the highlight of a Senate Higher Education Committee work session on Thursday, Jan. 23.
Testimony supports Governor’s capital budget proposal
Wayne Doty, SBCTC capital budget director, testified in favor of the Governor’s supplemental capital budget proposal before the House Capital Budget Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Contained in HB 2224, the proposal includes:
· A $3.162 million new appropriation for the design phase of the Centralia College Student Services building.
· Authority to finance $3 million for the Lower Columbia Student Housing using local funds.
· Authority to finance $3 million for the Lower Columbia Main Building renovation using local funds.
The proposal does not provide the $53 million in construction funding requested for the Olympic College Instruction Center.
Jim Walton, Centralia College president, said the proposal would allow the college to finish redesigning its aging and overcrowded Student Services Building and replace parking that the building will ultimately displace. “Parking is an issue because we’re in the middle of a residential district and our building will displace one of our largest parking lots. The City of Centralia is so concerned that they issued us a letter saying that they would not issue us a building permit until we take care of this issue,” he said.
Chris Bailey, Lower Columbia College president, said the proposal gives the college permission to finance two projects using local funds: purchase student housing adjacent to the campus, and convert underused space in the oldest building for much-needed math classrooms. “These classrooms are part of our STEM work that is in great demand,” he said.
David Mitchell, Olympic College president, pointed out that the Olympic College Instruction Center was the only project on the system’s capital request list not funded in the budget proposal. “The system strongly recommends that this be in the budget. The project has been funded for design. It’s replacing an old building that has seismic problems, it’s not accessible, it doesn’t meet ADA standards, and mechanical and electrical systems have run their useful life.”
Institutional funding put to good use for students
Students have benefitted greatly from $18.5 million in new, flexible funding authorized in the 2013-2015 operating budget, according to testimony at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Rich Cummins, Columbia Basin College president, said the funding creates a “virtuous circle” of improved student services and retention. “The Legislature’s foresight has already provided a backbone for improved strategies for attracting and retaining our community’s future – home-grown, successful students who add great value to our quality of life,” he said.
David Mitchell, Olympic College president, said the new investment has been put to good use in student support services.
Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, gave a historical funding perspective. The 2013-2015 annual state appropriations for the community and technical college system are 19 percent lower than the “high water mark” of FY 2009 (23 percent lower when adjusted for inflation). Tuition increases and other resources have helped fill the void, but have placed a burden on students. Community and technical college students now pay 35 percent of their higher education, up from 24 percent in FY 2009.
Hundreds of bills have been introduced by legislators over the last week. With the first cutoff date fast approaching, the Legislature has begun to take action on a number of these proposals that impact CTCs.
House hears dual credit, Common Core, BAS degrees, and cosmetology bills
Scott Copeland, SBCTC policy associate, testified in support of HB 2285 and HB 2396 during the Jan. 22 House Higher Education Committee hearing. HB 2285 requires the WA Student Achievement Council to study dual credit programs and recommend improvements to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2014. HB 2396 aims to increase the number of underrepresented students who participate in Running Start. Local school districts are required to create enrollment plans, with information from local CTCs, to increase participation rates among these students.
During a Jan. 24 House Higher Education Committee hearing, Bill Moore, SBCTC Core to College Alignment director, testified in support of HB 2383 that requires ongoing alignment of the K-12 Common Core with higher education institutions. Education agencies are required to submit information to the WA Student Achievement Council to roll into a final report due to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2014.
“We’ve been working very hard as a system to improve the issues around remediation and precollege programs in order to accelerate student progress to and through college level coursework,” Moore said.
During the same hearing, Jim Walton, Centralia College president, Stu Halsan, Centralia College trustee, Jan Yoshiwara, SBCTC Education Services deputy director, and Paul Bell, Bellevue College student, testified in support of HB 2398 allowing CTCs to award honorary BAS degrees.
Halsan testified about the great opportunity for Centralia and other CTCs to grant applied baccalaureate degrees and to honor those active with their local college. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us and for people who are in rural areas to secure four-year degrees. We very much would encourage the Legislature to move this bill forward,” Halsan said.
Walton explained how Centralia College has awarded honorary associate degrees, but that allowing honorary BAS degrees would further demonstrate the important role community members play in the success of their local college. “We have offered honorary associate degrees over time and because of the fact that we now have a very successful applied science degree, we would like the ability to honor individuals who have dedicated themselves to Centralia College by offering them an honorary degree,” Walton said.
Yoshiwara testified that CTCs have seen a spike in the number of BAS degrees offered with many more in the pipeline. “We are very pleased to support HB 2398. We’ve had exponential growth in the number of programs and the number of colleges offering applied baccalaureate degree opportunities for their technical or associate degree graduates. The program is truly meeting the goals you outlined in the enabling legislation,” Yoshiwara said.
Bell offered student support for the bill explaining this is another way CTCs are responding to emerging needs. “[HB 2398] provides institutions like mine…awarding their highest honors in ways they deem appropriate, on an institution basis.”
On Jan. 24, the House Business and Financial Services Committee heard a substitute to HB 2512 that creates a hair design license impacting cosmetology training programs at our colleges across the state. Tiffany Merkel, SBCTC program administrator, Alison Grazzini Smith, SBCTC legislative director, Tina Evans, Everett Community College faculty, and Sylvia Garcia, Spokane Community College faculty testified in support of the substitute bill.
House passes efficiency, faculty increment bills
ESHB 1769, introduced last session by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, passed the House 97-0 (1 excused). Aimed at increasing efficiency in higher education, this bill increases the threshold for capital predesign from $5 million to $10 million and increases the maximum value for a minor works project from $2 million to $5 million.
ESHB 1769 will be referred to a Senate committee.
HB 1348, introduced last session by Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, passed the House 63-34 (1 excused). This bill requires community and technical colleges to provide step increases or increments as they are negotiated in local agreements, even when the amount exceeds the compensation provided by the Legislature in the state budget. Under existing law, salary increases cannot exceed the amount set in the state budget.
HB 1348 has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Session cutoff dates
Mandated cutoff dates determine which bills will continue through the legislative process. These dates can impact legislative work – including a flurry of committee hearings – and are important to note. This year, these dates are:
· Feb. 7: policy committee cutoff – bills in policy committees must receive a hearing and be passed.
· Feb. 11: fiscal committee cutoff – bills in fiscal committees must receive a hearing and be passed.
· Feb. 18: house of origin cutoff (5pm) – bills in their original chamber must be passed.
· Feb. 28: policy committee cutoff – bills in opposite house policy committees must receive a hearing and be passed.
· March 3: fiscal committee cutoff – bills in opposite house fiscal committees must receive and hearing and be passed.
· March 7: opposite house cutoff (5pm) – bills in the opposite chamber must be passed.
· March 13: Sine Die – last day of the regular session.
SBCTC Government Relations provides updated legislative resources throughout session:
· Bill Watch List – important bills being considered that may have significant impact on the CTC system.
· Bill Status Report – all bills being tracked by SBCTC staff during session.
· Weekly Hearing Schedule – schedule of weekly hearings where CTCs are testifying and/or monitoring bills.
· Legislator information – contact information for legislators organized by college district, committee, caucus, etc.