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. 15 — Joyce 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.
Gov. Inslee delivers “State of the State” address
Jan. 13, 2015 — Gov. 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.