Sunday, February 2, 2014

Committees ramp up hearings, first cutoff date fast approaching

With the Feb. 7 cutoff date fast approaching, legislative committees are scheduling, hearing, and passing a number of higher education bills. Legislative proposals impacting CTCs range from financial aid, precollege initiatives, budget transparency, workforce training, and college efficiencies.

Expanding education to reduce recidivism

The House Higher Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, held a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 28, on House Bill 2486, which aims to reduce the likelihood of former inmates re-offending by allowing postsecondary education degree programs for incarcerated adults.

While basic skills, vocational, and high school diploma or equivalent are currently allowed, the Department of Corrections (DOC) is barred from using state funds to pay for post-secondary academic education courses (those typically leading to an associate transfer degree).

The bill would repeal that prohibition and authorize DOC to offer such degree programs within available resources.

“For every dollar invested [in education for inmates], we get a five dollar return to the state in public safety and reduced social costs,” said Bernie Warner, DOC secretary, “Eighty percent of inmates who engage in education are retained in those programs. They take it very seriously.”

Warner said no state funds are used for post-secondary academic education programs offered at correctional facilities. Walla Walla Community College used funds from The Sunshine Lady Foundation to provide college transfer courses to inmates and 177 have graduated with AA degrees.

Jacquie Armstrong, SBCTC policy associate for adult basic education and corrections, testified in favor of the measure, pointing out that prison education reduces recidivism and increases employment opportunities.

Armstrong said national studies — as well as research by the Washington Institute for Public Policy — show education reduces recidivism rates. In addition, AA graduates released from the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center have, to date, had zero percent recidivism.

Kevin Miller, who earned a computer information systems program certificate and later an AA degree from Edmonds Community College while incarcerated at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary and the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, has been out of prison since July 2012. Miller will graduate from Washington State University – Vancouver in May.

“Without an opportunity for growth and change, there’s not a real shot at reforming a person [in prison],” Miller said. “Education was a springboard for my life.”

He said the scales are tipped against former inmates, but an education helps balance the scales with employers and shows a person has taken the initiative to better themselves and be a better citizen.

Link to testimony (begins at 55:05).

Senate committee holds confirmation, pre-college hearings

The Senate Higher Education Committee held a confirmation hearing for State Board member Jay Reich on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Reich said he felt privileged to work in the community and technical college sector.

“[The CTC system is] among the most flexible, it’s among the most entrepreneurial, it’s the most grounded in terms of community involvement and linkages to employment,” he said. “To me, frankly, given the daunting needs and the need for capacity-building, it holds among the greatest opportunities looking forward.”

After the confirmation hearing, the focus shifted to pre-college education. Michelle Andreas, South Puget Sound Community College vice president of instruction, discussed data-driven approaches that are making a difference in Washington.

A former SBCTC staff member, Andreas corrected two common myths: most pre-college students are straight out of high school (most have been out of high school at least three years), and they get stuck in a substrata of pre-college courses (many students take one or two pre-college courses, typically in math, while enrolled in other college-level classes).

“You might imagine yourself having gone through high school, maybe even a fabulous writer, and really good at math, but being away from those two subjects for a while [and] not having the opportunity to do a lot of continued skill development … you might need some brushing up if you were to go back and retool.”

She pointed to successful approaches in Washington, including:

·         I-BEST, which uses a team-teaching approach to combine college-readiness classes with regular, credit-bearing academic or job training classes. Students work on college-level studies right away, clearing multiple levels in one leap. 

·         Concurrent classes that close the “persistence gap.” Students are required to take precollege and college-level classes in the same subject, at the same time – such as English 98 and English 100 – leaving them no option but to proceed in college-level study.

·         Competency-based education, where students move through pre-college courses based on knowledge gained rather than time spent in a classroom.

·         Multiple assessments – including high school transcripts – for the many students who might know a subject matter but fare poorly on traditional placement tests.

Andreas pointed out that South Puget Sound Community College has collapsed the sequence of pre-college courses so students can take just a couple of courses instead of an entire series.

Link to testimony (Jay Reich at 5:57, Michelle Andreas at 16:00).

Financial aid work session

The Senate Higher Education Committee held a financial aid work session on Thursday, Jan. 30. Rachelle Sharpe, Washington Student Achievement Council senior director of student financial aid and support services, kicked off the meeting with an overview of the types of financial aid -- federal, state, institution, and private. Individual colleges package those programs differently for each student based on eligibility and program rules, she explained.

Sharpe said the average annual student loan amount increased dramatically between 2007-2008 and 2012-2013:

·         Up 50 percent for research universities.

·         Up 59 percent for regional universities.

·         Up 100 percent for community and technical colleges.

The spike in student loans started to level between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, she said, probably because students hit the maximum federal borrowing limit those years.

Lisa Matye Edwards, Lower Columbia College vice president of student success, and Marisa Geier, director of financial aid, offered different financial aid scenarios and spotlighted the large number of students with financial need. About 429 eligible Lower Columbia students have not received State Need Grants, causing a $1.5 million Need Grant deficit at the college.

Link to testimony (Rachelle Sharpe at 12:26, Lower Columbia at 1:00:30).

Capital work session

Wayne Doty, SBCTC capital budget director, spoke before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, Jan. 30, as part of a work session on construction costs and capital projects for community and technical colleges.

The committee organized the session around capital construction cost drivers which include, among other things:

·         Inflation rate (labor/materials and market competition);

·         Scope (purpose) and durability (life expectancy);

·         Prevailing wage, high performance building;

·         Public procurement process; and

·         Codes and standards.

“We are not building the same buildings we built 12 years ago,” Doty explained. “The project cost per square foot of building has gone up faster than what can be explained by just the inflation of labor and materials.”

Doty said that despite the many changes in requirements and learning environments, the system is managing projects within the funding provided, competitively bidding every project, and returning any savings to the state when projects are complete.

Several factors result in higher costs:

·         High performance building standards (adopted in 2005);

·         Building and fire codes change every two years;

·         Storm water management manuals (updated in 2004 and 2005), with additional requirements for urban density areas;

·         Permitting authorities are imposing more mitigation to local impacts;

·         The creation of campus-wide notification and lock-down systems to increase student safety;

·         Long-term planning, flexible designs, and quality construction that allows colleges to adapt buildings to future uses; and

·         Updated technology throughout the buildings, such as wireless connectivity, projectors, and monitors.

Doty highlighted projects in the system’s 2014 supplemental request to illustrate the changes:

·         Centralia College’s new Student Service Center will replace two old buildings that do not meet current standards for safety and access.

·         Olympic College’s pending Instruction Center incorporates the changes outlined above.

Link to testimony (begins at 27:20).

Link to SBCTC presentation.


The Legislature took action on a few bills this week:

Real Hope Act, in-state tuition for veterans passes Senate

SB 6523, the Real Hope Act, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, passed the Senate 35-10 (4 excused) yesterday. This bill makes undocumented students eligible for state financial aid. In addition, $5 million in new funding is provided for the State Need Grant.

SB 6523 will now be referred to a House committee for further action.

SB 5318, introduced last session also by Sen. Bailey, passed the Senate 45-0 (4 excused) the same day. This bill waives the one-year waiting period for veterans to be able to pay in-state tuition.

SB 5318 will now be referred to a House committee for further action.

Credit for military training bill passes House

HB 1858, introduced last session by then-Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, passed the House 95-0 (3 excused). This bill requires all higher education institutions to have a policy in place to award academic credit for students with prior military training. All CTCs currently have a policy in place.

HB 1858 will now be referred to a House committee for further action.

House hears statutory modification bill

The House Higher Education Committee heard HB 2546 on Jan. 29. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, allows the expiration of many outdated state statutes impacting CTCs including:

·         Officially transferring technical colleges from K-12 to the higher education system;

·         Enrollment and financial aid budget calculations based on participation rates from the early 90s;

·         Programs that have been defunded and are no longer used (e.g. the Displaced Homemaker Act and Project Even Start); and

·         Some higher education general obligation bonds that have since matured.

Session cutoff dates

Mandated cutoff dates determine which bills will continue through the legislative process. These dates directly impact legislative work and are important to note. This session, 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.

Session resources

SBCTC Government Relations provides updated legislative resources throughout session:

·         The Bill Watch Listimportant 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 Scheduleschedule of weekly hearings where CTCs are testifying and/or monitoring bills.

·         Legislator informationcontact information for legislators organized by college district, committee, caucus, etc.