This week legislators marked the session halfway point with plenty of action on bills impacting community and technical colleges. In addition, CTCs presented before legislative committees on a variety of issues and continued to be part of discussions with lawmakers in Olympia.
Campus climate examined in work session
The House Higher Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, held a three-part work session on Wednesday, Feb. 12, regarding health and safety in higher education.
Campus safety and security
Bill Overby, Skagit Valley College director of security services, gave an overview of the safety and security issues, challenges, and policies for the community and technical college system, as well as those specific to his campus.
In examining security vulnerabilities, colleges ask themselves if buildings can be locked down, whether employees can quickly and discretely summon help, whether information technology is secure (from cyber hackers) with redundancies in case of emergency, and whether parking lots and other areas of campus are secure.
Skagit is the second oldest college in the state and its buildings cannot be locked down from a central control center, Overby explained.
“There is more work to be done,” said Overby. On behalf of campus safety officers, he asked the committee to support campus safety improvements and training initiatives outlined in a 2010 SBCTC report to the Legislature, particularly, to support funding for technology (electronic access devices, duress buttons, cameras, ID cards, and security/fire alarm systems) and to restore/improve access to mental health care.
Local communities also look to the colleges as designated safe havens for food, clothing, and shelter in the event of disaster. Overby described mutual aid agreements with the American Red Cross and other entities as well as local multi-agency training in incident response.
Tim Walters, Eastern Washington University chief of police, and Steve Hanson, Washington State University, assistant chief of police, discussed security issues and challenges at the public baccalaureates.
The Student Debt Reduction Working Group of the Associated Students at the University of Washington presented its research findings about student debt at the UW.
Tuition increases mean it is no longer possible to cover the cost of college with part-time jobs. Their calculations found that UW students need to work 54 hours per week (year-round at minimum wage) to fully fund an education.
They found that middle-income students have the greatest unmet need, with students from middle-income families not eligible for financial aid, but unable to afford college without loans.
Student debt impacts:
· Of those students accessing mental health counseling services, 33 percent cite financial stress.
· Students simply drop out or go back to work.
· Added difficulty for time-intensive majors such as engineering or pre-medicine.
· Undue sacrifice by families, taking on private loans and second mortgages.
· Less ability to engage or participate on campus.
Brian McQuay, Pierce College Puyallup student, described the stress of repaying loans as students complete college.
He will graduate in June with $15,000 in debt and guesses he could be $30,000 to $40,000 in debt when he is completely finished with his postsecondary education.
“Older students can’t rely on their parents,” said McQuay, “Some already have a family themselves.”
He also shared that attending college is not just about tuition, but also includes cost of living expenses. “Tuition is only part of it,” he said, explaining the burden of total living expenses. “I worry about this current generation and future generations who can’t pursue the education and careers they want.”
Mental health on campus
Deb Casey, Green River Community College vice president of student affairs and human resources, and Cyndi Rapier, Green River Community College director of housing and safety response for international programs, gave an overview of student mental health issues system-wide and response at their campus.
“The International Association of Counseling Services recommends a staffing level of one counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students,” Casey said. “We have 9,000-plus students and two counselors. It doesn’t work when you have increased demand for services.”
About 10 percent of any population — whether in the community or on campus — has mental health issues, according to Casey. The range of behaviors on campus can range from lacking social and problem-solving skills to attempted suicide.
Green River has embedded “human crisis response” into its emergency management plan with the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT), a multidisciplinary team that meets on a regular basis to review and respond to reports of student behavior that may pose a threat of self-harm or a threat to the community.
By way of example, Casey said the shooter at Virginia Tech logged 70 behavior-related incidents all over campus, but there was not a holistic way to see a pattern.
The BIT process requires a “culture of reporting,” with information and incidents — e.g. a disturbing class essay or a Running Start student who has an episode at high school — funneled into one place so that, taken in total, it may be more readily apparent if there is an escalating problem.
Rapier said counselors go beyond the campus boundaries and network with community resources, including cultural organizations, food and clothing banks, and domestic violence resources, on behalf of their students.
Challenges to the community and technical college system include:
· Increased funding for staffing, academic accommodations, safety communication systems, professional development, capacity-building, and partnerships.
· Statewide technology systems.
· Increased support and funding for mental health, counseling, and other community resources and referral agencies.
Elizabeth McHugh, The Evergreen State College director of counseling and health services, described the increase in student anxiety and stress over the past five years, coupled with limited campus resources and increased complexity, especially drug and alcohol issues combined with mental health issues.
Ted Pratt, Western Washington University dean of students, gave an overview of increase of usage of counseling center, including waiting lists for services.
This week legislators took action on a number of bills CTCs are tracking this session:
· SHB 2336: increasing higher education transparency by posting departmental budget information online. This bill passed the House 95-3 and has been scheduled for a public hearing in Senate Higher Education Feb. 20.
· HB 2398: allowing CTCs to award honorary applied baccalaureate degrees. This bill passed the House 98-0 and has been referred to Senate Higher Education.
· SHB 2486: allowing state funds to provide associate degrees for incarcerated adults. This bill passed the house 59-37 (2 excused) and will now be referred to a Senate committee for further action.
· SHB 2546: making modifications to outdated higher education statutes. This bill passed the House 98-0 and has been referred to Senate Higher Education.
· SHB 2613: making institutions of higher education more efficient through alternative payroll periods, predesign limits for capital projects, and other means. This bill passed the House 96-0 (2 excused) and will be referred to a Senate committee for further action.
· ESHB 2626: concerning the WA Student Achievement Council’s educational attainment goals. This bill passed the House 87-10 (1 excused) and will now be referred to a Senate committee for further action.
· SHB 2651: promoting higher education transparency by requiring budget information is posted online. This bill passed the House 97-1 and is scheduled for a public hearing in Senate Higher Education Feb. 20.
· SSB 5969: awarding academic credit – tied to a degree or certificate – for prior military training. This bill passed the Senate 48-0 (1 excused) and has been referred to House Higher Education.
· SB 6358: requiring CTCs to notify students of financial aid policies on a rolling basis. This bill passed the Senate 48-0 and will be referred to a House committee for further action.
· SSB 6362: promoting higher education efficiencies through alternative payroll periods, aligning reporting requirements for four-year institutions under previous legislation, and other means. This bill passed the Senate 48-0 (1 excused) and will now be referred to a House committee for further action.
· ESSB 6436: creates a stakeholder work group to study the College Bound scholarship program and make recommendations to the Legislature. This bill passed the Senate 48-0 and will now be referred to a House committee for further action.
Click here for a longer list of high priority CTC bills still in play.
Click here for a complete list of CTC bills being tracked this legislative session.
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. 18: house of origin cutoff (5 p.m.) – bills in their original chamber must be passed by 5 p.m.
· 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.