Last week marked another important milestone as session enters the final few weeks. With committee testimony and presentations regarding adult basic education, credit for prior learning, and aerospace training, the spotlight was on community and technical colleges. In addition, the annual CTC legislative reception was a great success where in-demand programs, student-produced wine and food were featured.
Legislative reception spotlights colleges
After much laughter and teasing, she crashed the plane. Not a real plane, of course. The guest at the Thursday, Feb. 20 legislative reception was using a flight simulator provided by Green River Community College’s aviation technology program.
The demonstration was one of several programs featured by Washington community and technical colleges at an Olympia event that drew about 150 legislators, presidents, trustees, staff and other guests. Other featured programs were:
· Diagnostic Ultrasound – Bellevue College.
· NASA Rocket Project – Clark College.
· Digital Gaming & Media (I-BEST and Project IDEA) – Lake Washington Institute of Technology.
· Nanotechnology – North Seattle Community College.
· Wine Technology – South Seattle Community College.
· Orthotics-Prosthetics Technician – Spokane Falls.
Guests sampled student-created wines and chocolates presented by:
· College Cellars of Walla Walla Community College and the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College.
· Culinary programs at Bates Technical College, Edmonds Community College, Skagit Valley College, South Puget Sound Community College, and South Seattle Community College.
The annual legislative reception gives the community and technical college system a chance to visit with legislators and demonstrate how colleges uplift lives and the economy.
Aerospace Training Loan Program discussed
On Thursday, Feb. 20, the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee heard updates on the Aerospace Training Student Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans to Washington students who enroll in authorized short-term certificate programs.
The discussion started with a presentation by Larry Cluphf, director of the Washington Aerospace Training & Education Center (WATR). Located at Paine Field in Everett and managed by Edmonds Community College, the WATR Center trains students for high-wage, high-demand aerospace jobs in 12 weeks. Students start with a 4-week core program and move on to specialized certificates such as assembly mechanic, electrical assembler, tooling, and quality assurance.
Since 2010, 1,161 WATR Center graduates have been hired or have start dates. Renton Technical College students also benefit from a partnership with the WATR Center. The partnership is expected to continue with the future Central Sound Aerospace Training Center in Renton.
Rachelle Sharpe, Washington Student Achievement Council director of student financial aid and support services, explained criteria for the loan program. Loans are prioritized for the neediest students, criminal background checks and credit checks are run to ensure students will be employable, and funds are provided directly to Edmonds Community College to cover tuition.
The loan program is often the only option for needy students because state and federal financial aid is unavailable for short certificates, she said.
Edmonds Community College President Jean Hernandez highlighted the need to increase students’ access to, and awareness of, the loan program.
Dual-credit programs topic of House hearing
Scott Copeland, SBCTC policy associate, testified in support of HB 2285 before the Senate Higher Education Committee on Thursday, Jan. 20. The measure would require the Washington Student Achievement Council to study differences in how colleges and universities award credit for dual-credit coursework, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. The measure is considered a first step toward consistent awarding of credits among colleges.
“I’m pleased to say that we have had a system-wide State Board policy with all 34 colleges for advanced placement since May of 2000,” Copeland said. “We are in complete support.”
Adult education, credit for prior learning discussed
Adult education has traditionally been viewed as an isolated function in higher education -- students learn basic skills, pass a GED or other high school equivalency, and are set adrift to find their own way. In a world where most jobs require at least some level of college education, these students too often land in economic insecurity.
That’s all changing under the new Washington State Adult Education Plan, according to Jon Kerr, SBCTC Adult Basic Education director. At a House Higher Education Committee work session on Friday, Jan. 21, Kerr said the plan moves the finish line from passing a high school equivalency test, to entering college or a career, he said. The goal is to get adult education students to and through the “tipping point” – one year of college plus a credential such as nursing, welding or drafting -- that leads to more financial security.
Adult education serves people with below high-school-level knowledge or limited English language skills. Strategies outlined in the plan:
· Directly connect adult education to college and careers.
· Set a clear destination for students from the very beginning.
· Provide instruction in real-world contexts that have meaning to students’ lives.
· Advance students based on competency and skills learned rather than on seat time, accelerating their progress.
· Create partnership with community-based organizations to help students stay in school and on track.
“It’s essential that we provide pathways to meaningful certificates and degrees for all of our adults and the new state plan is doing just that,” Kerr said.
Washington’s community and technical colleges and partnering community-based organizations provide 90 percent of all adult education in Washington, so the new plan will prompt change statewide.
The importance of partnerships
Laura DiZazzo, Seattle Central Community College dean of basic and transitional studies, said her college integrates education planning into adult education classes. Students explore college options, tap resources, and set plans in motion.
Partnerships with community based organizations are vital, she said, pointing to an I-BEST program offered by Seattle Central with the YWCA Opportunity Place in downtown Seattle. (I-BEST stands for “Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training,” a team-teaching approach where basic skills are taught in the context of job training in the same class.)
Taleah Mitchell, a 26-year-old Seattle Central student, said the I-BEST program at the YWCA transformed her from a GED-holder to a college student with leadership and honors credentials. “All these things happened to me because of one really crucial difference with the I-BEST program that I can attest to,” she said. “In that program, the people there not only taught me things, but they taught me a lot of life skills that instilled this confidence in me. And you know, that’s not something we hear, and that’s something that moved me forward.”
Mitchell is double majoring in computer science and women and gender studies, and has her sights set on moving to Massachusetts to attend Smith, Mount Holyoke, or Amherst -- and then returning to Washington.
Establishing a clear path
Michelle Andreas, South Puget Sound Community College vice president of instruction, said the college plans to completely overhaul basic skills education rather than tinkering around the edges.
When students view adult education “it’s blurry, there’s a million ways to get ‘there’ and ‘there’ is not even clear to them. It’s a maze. It’s foggy, and often there’s no end in sight,” Andreas said. “We must create, from the moment they step on campus, clear opportunities for them to see their way ahead and where the end is.”
To reach that goal, SPSCC plans to create pathways from Adult Basic Education into four key occupational clusters:
· Human and social development.
· STEM and healthcare.
· “Maker-based” (trades, culinary, or other programs that involve making things).
Students will embark on those paths from the beginning, but still have flexibility to shift to other areas without losing ground.
High School 21+
Michal Ann Watts, a Lower Columbia College adult education instructor, lauded the State Board’s “High School 21+” program, a competency-based high school diploma offered at participating community and technical colleges for adults 21 years old and older. Advisors in the program look at transcripts and life-knowledge, and form a plan for completing a diploma.
“”When a [GED-seeking] student comes in, they’re already feeling terrible for having dropped out of high school,” Watts said. “[With High School 21+] students have the ability to go back in time and say, ‘this was the one spot I didn’t do well in and now I can fix that and walk out with a high school diploma.’ Their shoulders go back, their heads come up,” she said.
Randy Bailey, a 43-year-old Lower Columbia student, said his fear of tests always got in the way of accomplishing a GED. The High School 21+ program changed that, he said, by building a diploma from transcripts, classes, and competency rather than from a pass-or-fail test. Bailey is now studying welding at Lower Columbia and has made the dean’s list.
“I promote this program 100 percent to anybody I see, because if they gave a guy at the age of 43 an opportunity, they can give anybody an opportunity,” he said. “My biggest highlight, at the age of 43, was going down and getting senior pictures.”
Credit for prior learning
Earlier in the House Higher Education Committee meeting, SBCTC policy associate Scott Copeland spoke in favor of SSB 5969, which would require public colleges and universities to adopt policies to award academic credit for military training. All 34 community and technical colleges already have policies in place.
The substitute version includes SBCTC-initiated changes to ensure prior learning credits are applied specifically to degrees and certificates so veterans don’t exhaust or lose their benefits. “It’s a safety valve as we care and watch out for our veteran students,” Copeland explained.
Session cutoff dates
Mandated cutoff dates determine which bills will continue through the legislative process. Here is the next round of important session cutoff dates fast approaching:
· 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 (5 p.m.) – bills in the opposite chamber must be passed by 5 p.m.
· March 13: Sine Die – last day of the regular session.
SBCTC Government Relations provides updated legislative resources throughout session:
· The Bill Watch List – important bills being considered that may have significant impact on the CTC system.
· The Bill Status Report – all bills being tracked by SBCTC staff during session.
· The 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.