Friday, January 30, 2015

Trustees, college leaders recognize student achievement at annual awards ceremony

Hundreds of community and technical college representatives gathered in Olympia this week to honor students and discuss priorities with legislators. Meanwhile, House and Senate committees kept up a fast pace, hearing bills and holding work sessions on a number of issues, including sexual assault prevention, student mental health and early registration for spouses and domestic partners of active duty military members.

Trustees advocate for system, recognize students

Jan. 28-29 — The Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC) held its annual two-day Legislative Contact Conference in Olympia to celebrate this year’s Transforming Lives award winners and to hear lawmakers’ views on higher education issues. The event kicked off with a Wednesday dinner honoring five students whose lives were transformed by community and technical colleges.  

Thursday was devoted to legislative and policy discussions. Gov. Jay Inslee gave the keynote speech, crediting the job-relevant training offered at community and technical colleges. “One of the things you do better than anyone else is to actually match training with the needs of the workforce,” he said. “I appreciate so much your leadership and your competency in identifying the real demands of the workforce.”

The governor highlighted investments in his proposed budget: Basic Education for Adults, I-BEST, the MESA community college program and capital projects. He also cast education as a continuum that stretches from early childhood education through college. “We need every educational rung on that ladder. Kids want to climb to different places. We need to respect all those goals,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor outlined her goals as Senate Higher Education Committee chair. Her priorities include student completion, year-round access to higher education, reduced student debt and less need for remediation. She credited community and technical colleges for being accessible and affordable. “There’s nothing that warms my heart more than being on a community or technical college campus…the feeling of being on a campus where you know a lot of people are really thrilled to be there,” she said. 

Sen. Bailey advised reminding lawmakers that four year degrees aren’t the only route to success. “Not every student is destined for a four-year degree, and that’s ok. We have the opportunity to educate in a way that gives people the tools to go out and be successful.”

House members hear testimony on new grant program, early registration, mental health task force

Jan. 28 — Members of the House Higher Education Committee heard testimony on bills that would create a new grant contract program, require colleges and universities to make early registration available to spouses and domestic partners of active duty members of the military, and create a task force on mental health and suicide prevention in higher education.

Scott Copeland, SBCTC student services policy associate, testified on HB 1154, a “pay as you earn” proposal. The bill would replace the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship programs with “Affordable College for Everyone” programs.

The new programs would keep the current eligibility criteria. However, they would require students, one year after leaving college, to contribute back to the programs within certain income affordability limits. The goal is to help replenish and ultimately expand the programs to cover more students since the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship programs are now underfunded.

Copeland joined other higher education representatives in lauding the intent of the measure, but expressed concern that it would replace grants with loans and possibly increase student debt.

Copeland also testified on HB 1052, which would expand early registration to the spouses and domestic partners of active duty military members. He thanked family members for being the “biggest supporters of our military,” yet expressed concern that the measure might cause unintended “leapfrogging” – even ahead of veterans. The community and technical college system, he said, generally seeks to grant priority registration to students who are closest to graduation so they stay on track to transfer or enter the workforce.

Committee members also heard testimony on HB 1138, which would create a task force on mental health and suicide prevention at colleges and universities. Lori Miller, a Seattle Central College faculty member, spoke about her experience helping the college community after two students committed suicide in an academic quarter.

“Suicide is preventable,” Miller said. “Let’s get the conversation going about what we can do across the state at our colleges and universities to stop the epidemic of students dying by suicide.”

Joe Holliday, SBCTC director of student services, also testified in support of the bill.
“We support this bill,” he said. “We pledge to work actively on it with the task force. We’re in.”

Senators hear about sexual assault prevention and response

Jan. 27Joe Holliday, SBCTC director of student services, testified before the Senate Higher Education Committee during a work session on campus sexual assault. Holliday outlined what the community and technical college system is doing to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus:

·         Each college has either adopted or is working to adopt a model student conduct code developed with the Washington Attorney General’s office. The code prohibits sexual misconduct, including sexual violence, and provides guidance on due process proceedings.
·         Colleges notify students of the institution’s sexual assault policies at least annually. Some colleges, like Green River College, have developed video resources to educate students. Colleges as a system are looking at developing similar education methods at a statewide level.
·         To help prevent and address sexual assault on campus, each college has campus safety personnel, work closely with local law enforcement and social service agencies to provide a web of services and support, and use a behavioral intervention team to address students of concern.
·         Challenges faced by colleges include working proactively to implement federal law changes. Stretched staffing and resources make it difficult for colleges to work on prevention and education while remaining responsive to students and administering new procedures.
·         To help colleges improve prevention and response, Holliday suggested a statewide approach that would combine resources and talents while identifying, adapting and bringing to scale effective practices in sexual assault prevention and response.

System priorities become bills

Four system priorities are now in bill form and have legislative sponsors:

·         HB 1704/SB 5354 – Allows community and technical colleges to provide associate degrees in corrections institutions within existing funds through an ongoing contract with the Department of Corrections. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.
·         HB 1705/SB 5619 – Ties Basic Education for Adults program funding to a caseload model. Sponsored by Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland and Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.
·         HB 1706/SB 5620 – Grants permissive waivers for building and student and activity fees for active duty military. Sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell and Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.

Coming up next week

Senators next week will continue the college trustee confirmation process. They will also hear a State Board-supported bill on waiving building and student activity fees for active duty military, SB 5620.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Colleges continue budget and policy efforts as Legislature enters second week

The 2015 legislative session continues at a breakneck pace. Community and technical college representatives headed to the Capitol this week to testify on budget proposals and policy bills affecting higher education. Legislators focused on college affordability and capital budget needs and continued to consider Gov. Inslee’s budget proposals.

System capital budget process discussed in Senate

Jan. 22Wayne Doty, SBCTC capital budget director, discussed the community and technical college system’s capital budget process during a Senate Ways & Means Committee work session. Every individual college request is scored and ranked based on the need for space, condition of existing facilities, systemwide policy objectives and estimated costs. A single priority list is then submitted to the Legislature as part of the capital budget request.

Leading up to Doty’s presentation was an overview of the Bates Technical College Mohler Communications and Technology Center project by Marty Mattes, the college director of facilities and operations. He detailed the care and attention devoted to manage the project within the existing appropriation. It is halfway through the construction phase.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R- Moses Lake, credited community and technical colleges for reaching agreement before approaching the Legislature.

“It’s really nice to have the projects scored and ranked ahead of time so we don’t have to make that decision. So I appreciate what you’re doing.”

Tuition setting authority topic of Senate hearing

Jan. 21 — The Senate Ways & Means Committee held a work session on higher education budget issues, including college tuition-setting authority. Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, said the Legislature should set higher education tuition in the budget because tuition is directly tied to state funding levels. This is already the case for community and technical colleges; the State Board adopts tuition rates within caps set by the Legislature.

“We like to think of tuition as part of the whole affordability question,” Brown said. “We think that unlimited tuition authority would not be a wise thing for our community and technical college students.”

Brown cautioned committee members that no new state funds and no tuition increase would amount to a budget cut because of inflation costs. Additionally, Brown said, Governor Inslee’s proposal to fund employee salary increases out of tuition dollars while keeping tuition frozen amounts to an unfunded mandate.

“Tuition increases were a partial backfill to the cuts,” he said. “It wasn’t in anticipation of future salary increases.”

House members discuss college affordability

Jan. 21Alexandra Minea and Robert Lasker, SBCTC student interns and representatives of the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA), testified before the House Higher Education Committee during work session portion of the hearing.

The committee held a work session on college affordability. Minea presented to the committee a profile of community and technical colleges students and the financial considerations — such as transportation, food, rent and other personal expenses in addition to tuition and book costs — they face.

“We believe that affordability is vital for students to meet their education goals and their career goals,” Minea said. “And community and technical colleges serve as that access point for higher education for many students. When they’re focused on their finances, it takes away from their college experience yet alone all the debt they’ll be in years after graduation.”

Lasker added his own story to testimony. He told committee members that even with federal, state and college financial assistance with money earned from his 17-hour a week job, he’s left with $1,291 for his expenses throughout the quarter after paying for tuition and rent.

“I would like you to consider the plight of the students when you go to work on this,” he said. “It’s not just the tuition. It’s a whole package. It’s sleepless nights worrying about how I’m going to pay my bills this quarter because that’s where I’m at today.”

Capital budget topic of House hearing

Jan. 20 — Members of the House Capital Budget Committee heard from community and technical college representatives on challenges colleges face with Gov. Inslee’s proposed capital budget. Steve Ward, vice president of finance and administration at Centralia College, told committee members about Centralia’s new student services building, set to go out to bid this spring. Ward said that because of requirements placed on the project by the Legislature — such as shifting project management costs to the college — represents a $2.4 million cut to the project’s construction budget. Funding at that level would require Centralia to reduce the scope of the project before it could be bid, causing delays and leaving less funding.

“I’m asking on behalf of Centralia College and the system of community and technical colleges that you review our request and see if there’s not a better way to resolve the budget challenges in the state,” Ward said.

Wayne Doty, SBCTC’s capital budget director, followed up Ward’s testimony outlining the State Board’s concerns with the governor’s proposed capital budget. Partially funding projects, as proposed in the budget, would cause delays to five projects. The board is also concerned with overall funding to community and technical colleges. The funding level, Doty said, represents the smallest dollar amount of the state’s bonds for the community and technical colleges in recent history.

Coming up next week

Next week, legislators will hear from State Board and college staff on proposals to create a higher education task force on mental health and suicide prevention and to provide early registration for spouses and domestic partners of active duty military personnel.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Legislature kicks off 105-day session

The 2015 Legislature kicked off its 105-day session this week with swearing in ceremonies and multiple hearings. The Legislature’s priority will be writing the next two-year state budget — a challenging task. The state faces a $2 billion budget shortfall in addition to a Supreme Court mandate for additional K-12 funding. About 12 percent of the Legislature is comprised of new members elected to the House and Senate this past fall. This means new committee chairs and, in some cases, new leadership roles.

For more information on the community and technical college system’s priorities this session, check out our legislative agenda, operating budget request and capital budget request.

SBCTC will keep you posted on committee hearings, proposed legislation and other details important to our students and colleges.

Senate committee hears about dual credit opportunities

Jan. 15Joyce Hammer, SBCTC director of transfer education, testified before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on dual credit options offered through community and technical colleges for high school students. The two-year college system currently provides dual credit in Running Start (serving 20,100 students during the 2013-2014 academic year), College in the High School (3,998 students) and Tech-Prep (26,457 students). Colleges also offer credit to students if they score well on Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests.

Hammer also outlined the system’s goals to improve dual credit opportunities for students. These areas include:

·         Coding, transcription and tracking to see which dual credit opportunities students pursue when they come into the system.
·         Gathering metrics on incoming students’ AP and IB scores which colleges will be able to track using ctcLink.
·         Creating consistency among two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities for credit awarded for AP and IB scores.
·         Looking at and possibly expanding dual credit opportunities for the University of Cambridge examination program, currently in use at two high schools but possibly expanding to more schools.

Link to PowerPoint.


State goals and legislative priorities focus of Senate work session

Jan. 14, 2015 — State education goals call for 100 percent of Washington adults to have a high school diploma and 70 percent to have a postsecondary credential by 2023. Community and technical colleges are the catalysts for making it happen, according to Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director.


At a work session before the Senate Higher Education Committee, Brown shared data on the accessibility and affordability of community and technical colleges. Among the highlights: resident tuition of $4,000 per year; a 388,000-strong student population with a median age of 26 and a high number of students of color, working parents and financial-aid recipients. 


Forty percent of bachelor degree graduates from public universities start at community and technical colleges, said Brown. And two colleges Olympic College and Renton Technical College have been named among the top 10 two-year colleges in the nation by the prestigious Aspen Institute. Walla Walla Community College was named the top community college in the nation in 2013, along with co-winner Santa Barbara City College.

“The things we do, and the things you do to help us, come to fruition,” Brown said.

Dr. Ed Brewster, president of the Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges, spotlighted the many paths students can take to earn certificates and degrees. “Students can enter our process in a variety of places and in a variety of ways,” said Brewster, who is also Grays Harbor College president. “We work with them to complete their credentials at a certificate level, or a two-year degree level and, in many cases now, at a four-year baccalaureate level.” Business partnerships, advisory committees and Centers of Excellence ensure college job-training programs keep pace with evolving industry standards, he said.


Brown and Brewster also discussed the community and technical college system’s 2015 legislative priorities. While the governor’s proposed operating and capital budgets follow system priorities, the proposals fall short of requested funding levels, they said. They also repeated concerns that the proposed funding method for compensation increases would create an unfunded mandate for a long-overdue need. (See further description under Jan. 12 House Higher Education Committee.)

Senate hears testimony on governor’s proposed budget

Jan. 14, 2015 — The governor’s proposed 2015-17 operating budget received a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, called the proposal a “welcome step in the right direction” and recognized the tough choices faced by lawmakers this session.

Mirroring his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Jan. 12, Lutes praised the governor’s priorities and voiced concern over the proposed method of funding faculty and staff salary increases. For more details, see the testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, below.

Students testify on legislative priorities

Jan. 14, 2015 — Two interns shed light on community and technical college students’ priorities at a House Higher Education Committee meeting. 

Alexandra Minea, a Highline College student, kicked off the discussion with an overview of the new SBCTC internship program. The program gives two-year college students a chance to learn about the legislative process, gain professional work experience and earn college credits. Minea and her fellow intern and presenter, Robert Lasker, will track legislation, advocate for student priorities, participate in hearings and monitor floor actions. “As student representatives, we too strive for a unified message to best serve our system and our students,” she said.

Robert Lasker, Washington Community and Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA) president, highlighted student priorities:

·         Protect higher education funding and broaden the statutory definition of “Basic Education” to include K-14.
·         Find new, designated resources to support higher education.
·         Make it easier for students to use Electronic Benefits Cards (EBT — often referred to as “food stamp” cards) on campus.
·         Dedicate funding to open educational resources and create incentives to reduce textbook costs.

Lasker shared his life-changing experience as a business student at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. He is in his second year of college and plans to pursue a Master in Business Administration. “I am exploring career options that I could only dream about a year-and-a-half ago. I’m a carpenter. I was constantly underemployed … And today, I’m sitting here in front of you fine people, doing things I never thought I would do in my life. So that’s why I’m here to advocate for community and technical colleges.” 

SBCTC launched the new, two-student internship program just weeks ago, in partnership with WACTCSA, the Council of Unions and Student Programs (CUSP) and Washington’s 34 colleges.

House committee hears higher education system overview

Jan. 13, 2015 — Representatives from the state’s higher education community briefed House Higher Education Committee members about the mission, goals and challenges colleges and universities face while educating students. The committee held a work session on the higher education system, including SBCTC Executive Director Marty Brown and Pierce College District Chancellor Dr. Michele Johnson. Committee members also heard from representatives from the Washington Student Achievement Council, the Council of Presidents and the committee’s own staff.

Brown and Johnson provided an overview of the state’s community and technical college system, providing committee members with a portrait of the colleges’ students, programs and employees.

“It’s a nimble and flexible system,” Brown said.

Johnson described the community and technical college system’s different program options like transfer, workforce, basic skills and pre-college.

“Our students come to us from very many different access points and as an open access institution — it’s really based on social justice,” Johnson said. “It’s our way of saying every student should have an opportunity so that our country can thrive and our state can thrive with these trained and educated individuals.”

Brown and Johnson used their remaining time to highlight the system’s legislative agenda and budget requests. With the theme of student success, the legislative agenda stresses basic education for adults, the Student Achievement Initiative, student support services, corrections education, a fee waiver for active duty military students, employee compensation and capital projects.

Link to PowerPoint and handout.

Gov. Inslee delivers “State of the State” address

Jan. 13, 2015Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. With the theme of “opportunity for all,” Inslee outlined his policy and budget priorities for 2015 session including education, infrastructure and clean energy.

“We know that expanding educational opportunities, launching a transportation construction program and fighting carbon pollution will put us on the right course,” Inslee said.

The education portion of the address focused on the importance of early learning and K-12 education, while recognizing that higher education is a vital part of a prosperous state and economy.

“Early learning is the best investment we can make in our future,” Inslee said. “That’s where we start. But our success will require a continuum of education, from early learning all the way through higher education.”

Inslee reiterated that his budget freezes tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities while supplementing financial aid so that 17,000 more students can get scholarships. The Governor’s proposed budget includes additional funding for the Opportunity Scholarship, College Bound and the State Need Grant.

“These investments are not based on wishful thinking,” Inslee said. “They are based on a rock-solid foundation of proven strategies, established reforms and demonstrable student performance.”

Inslee acknowledged the cuts to the state’s budget over the past six years have not come without costs, like rising college tuition. While state government has also found efficiencies, Inslee encouraged lawmakers to find common ground to effectively address budget shortfalls.

“Some see the road ahead paved only with cuts to services,” Inslee said. “Some consider only revenue as options. Both camps will ultimately realize that neither view is the definitive answer. We’re going to approach our work with a bold spirit of seeking solutions rather than finding excuses, and a can-do attitude of kicking aside our differences instead of kicking the can down the road.”

For a video and transcript of Gov. Inslee’s State of the State address, visit the  2015 State of the State website.

House hears testimony on governor’s proposed budget


Jan. 12, 2015 — On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee heard public testimony on Gov. Inslee’s proposed 2015-17 operating budget. Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, applauded the governor for listening to the community and technical college system’s priorities. The proposal would fund the system’s maintenance-level budget and include another $18.6 million to:

·         Provide academic and skills training for people who lack a high school-level education so they can pursue college and secure living wage jobs ($5 million for Basic Education for Adults).
·         Support I-BEST programs, which teach basic skills and academic or workforce subjects at the same time, in the same class, so students learn quickly and in applicable ways ($5 million for I-BEST).
·         Support innovations in pre-college (remedial) math and expand the MESA program. MESA — Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement — helps underrepresented community and technical college students succeed in school and ultimately pursue bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields.
·         Provide targeted workforce training in key industries ($6.6 million).

The governor’s proposal includes well-deserved adjustments in faculty and staff compensation, but it would also create an unfunded mandate, Lutes said. The proposal would fund about 65 percent of the cost and rely on college tuition revenues to pay the rest. The $28 million draw on tuition funds statewide could pull money away from much-needed student programs and services, he said.

Coming up next week

Next week, legislators will hear from State Board and college staff on expanding dual credit opportunities for students, the system’s capital budget and operating budget proposals, financial aid opportunities and job creation efforts.