Friday, February 6, 2015

400 students, 1 message: don't cut the future

Week four of legislative session featured a powerful student rally and the introduction of many more bills, bringing the total count to about 2,000 bills thus far. System representatives testified on several measures, including veterans bills, the governor’s proposed capital budget and the MESA Community College program.

Students rally in support of community and technical colleges
Community and technical college students rally in Olympia in support of higher education
Feb. 5 — About 400 community and technical college students from across the state rallied in the Legislative Building’s rotunda in a show of support for their colleges. Students held signs, chanted and cheered as they listened to speakers talk about college affordability, completion, financial aid and support for higher education.

“I want you to promise me that you’re going to get through school,” said Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Don’t let anything stop you.”

Community and technical college students rally in Olympia in support of higher educationStudents wore t-shirts saying “34 colleges one voice” and “Basic education has evolved — support K-14” in reference to the 2012 McCleary state Supreme Court decision that mandates the state fully fund basic education. Many also held signs supporting legislation that would allow students to fully use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) on campus. Signs also expressed concern about tuition, state funding and textbook affordability.

This is the sixth year students gathered for the event organized by the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association (WCTCSA).

Community and technical college students rally in Olympia in support of higher educationStudents also heard from Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland; Rep. Melanie Stambaugh R-Puyallup; Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup; Debrena Jackson Gandy, Highline College trustee; Ed Brewster, Grays Harbor president; Ryan ChapmanWACTCSA Region 2 representative from Bellingham Technical College; Christopher Johnston, WACTCSA Region 6 representative from Pierce College Fort Steilacoom; LaTonya BrisbaneWACTCSA executive; and Robert Lasker, WCTCSA president and SBCTC legislative intern from Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.

Senators hear veterans bills, move forward trustee appointments

Feb. 5 — The Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony on a system request bill to waive building fees and service and activity fees for active duty service members (SB 5620). Through rule changes, the Defense Department’s Tuition Assistance Program no longer covers those fees, leaving a gap in funding that the student needs to make up.

“This bill picks up where the Tuition Assistance Program leaves off,” testified Alison Grazzini, SBCTC legislative director.

The committee also heard testimony on SB 5355, which would modify the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.

Scott Copeland, SBCTC student affairs policy associate testified in favor of the bill.

“If we do not align with federal [requirements], all of our veterans are ineligible to participate in VA educational benefits so we must align to protect our current 15,000 students in the community and technical college sector as well as our future veterans,” Copeland said.

Senators also heard from Michael Ciraulo, Clark College trustee appointee, Elizabeth Thew and Janice Wigen, Community Colleges of Spokane trustee appointees as part of their appointment process. The committee voted to move forward Michael Deller, Everett Community College and Stassney Obregon, Bellevue College, to the next stage in the confirmation process after hearing their testimony at the committee’s Feb. 3 hearing.

·         Grazzini testimony starts at 1:46:07
·         Copeland testimony starts at 1:32:16
·         Wigen testimony starts at 19:10
·         Thew testimony starts at 21:25
·         Ciraulo testimony starts at 22:50

House members hear testimony on College in the High School

Feb. 5 — The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony on a bill aimed at making the College in the High School program more affordable for students and more relevant for those who transfer to the participating college.

Students in the program earn high school and college credits simultaneously in an advanced high school class taught by an instructor certified by the college. Students pay a fee for college credits based on the contract between the individual school and partnering college, so the fees vary between high schools.

HB 1546 seeks to provide subsidies for low-income students (subject to an appropriation in the state budget) and to limit the per-credit fee for all other students. It would also require a high school class to have a counterpart class on the college campus and satisfy general education or a degree requirement at the college.

Scott Copeland, SBCTC student services policy associate, testified in favor of the measure.

“This is an equity and access issue. Students who can afford to pay for the credit get the credit. Students sitting right next to themwith some exceptions by school districts generous to pay for the creditare learning the same material and not receiving the college credit,” he said.

Copeland expressed hope that College in the High School will also include career and technical education courses. 

Proposed capital budget heard in Senate Ways & Means

Feb. 5 — Community and technical college presidents testified on SB 5097, the governor’s proposed capital budget, at a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Speaking on behalf of the community and technical college system, Cascadia College President Eric Murray explained the proposed funding for the community and technical college system is significantly less than it has been historically. In addition, five out of six construction projects slated for next biennium would receive only about 90 percent of the construction funding, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify.

Luke Robbins, Peninsula College president, urged full funding for the construction phase of a new Allied Health building.  “SB 5097 proposes to cut the construction phase by 10 percent below our most recent estimated cost. Funding the project at this level would require redesign and reduce the scope of the project.” Underfunding the project would also create higher ongoing operating and maintenance costs, he said.

Nate Langstraat, Whatcom Community College vice president for administrative services, asked for full funding for the construction phase of a new Learning Commons. The building will integrate tutoring, a math center, a writing center and the library — all of which are now scattered throughout the campus in makeshift spaces.

“Delaying the funding of the construction phase will result in additional costs to the state. If not funded now, the design will need to be updated later and construction costs will escalate,” he said.

Cheryl Roberts, Shoreline Community College president, urged the Legislature to approve a capital budget that fully funds the community and technical college system’s prioritized list of capital projects. This would include funds for the design phase of an Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing facility at Shoreline.

“We have a concern because our design phase is not included in the funding,” she said. “This project will replace five, one-story, mid-century structures with one, four-story facility that would include our science, engineering, allied health, nursing, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.”

MESA Community College Program topic of Senate work session on STEM

Feb. 4 — Using remote testimony, a method new to the Legislature this year to make testifying before committees easier for people around the state, the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee heard testimony from Columbia Basin College on the benefits of the Mathematics, Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Community College program.

The MESA Community College program helps underrepresented community college students excel in school and ultimately earn STEM bachelor’s degrees. The program features intrusive advising, tutors and peer support to help students stay on track to graduation and ensure a smooth transition to a university.

The testimony on MESA Community College program was part of the committee’s work session on STEM industries, jobs and training opportunities in the state.

“If STEM education is about educating the pipeline that is going to create and continue to create wealth for Washington state, we need to have programs like MESA which serve many under-privileged, many first generation students,” said Rich Cummins, Columbia Basin College president.

He pointed out that 90 percent of MESA Community College program students continue on to earn a four-year degree in math, engineering and science.

Also testifying on behalf of Columbia Basin College were Gabriela Whitemarsh, MESA Community College program director, and Lesly Ibarra and Ginger McCormick, both MESA students.

“Being a member of the MESA program has been very rewarding,” Ibarra said. “Not only do we have each other, but we also have MESA tutors that help us with subjects like science, math, physics.”

McCormick echoed Ibarra’s praise for the MESA Community College program.

“The second I joined MESA, Gabriela helped me with advising and she helped me take classes that really counted toward my major,” McCormick said. “Not only classes that helped get my associate’s done, but classes that helped toward my bachelor’s degree as well.”

Columbia Basin, Olympic, Edmonds, Highline, Seattle Central and Yakima Valley colleges currently host MESA programs. The community and technical college system is looking for $4.56 million in the 2015-2017 operating budget to expand program offerings to 20 colleges.

Also testifying before the committee was Kathy Goebel, SBCTC policy associate for economic development. Goebel outlined how colleges and SBCTC are preparing students for STEM careers and how those students contribute to economic development across the state. She stressed that STEM fields are seeing more interest from students.

“Our colleges build a knowledgeable and highly skilled workforce,” Goebel said. “We create responsive and relevant programs for today’s competitive economy. And our colleges and students contribute more than $11 billion annually to the state’s economy all leading to a more competitive and vibrant state economy.”

·         Cummins testimony starts at 1:08:28
·         Whitemarsh testimony starts at 1:14:36
·         Ibarra testimony starts at 1:20:17
·         McCormick testimony starts at 1:21:46
·         Goebel testimony starts at 19:20

Senate committee hears from trustee nominees, bills on sexual assault prevention and response on campuses

Feb. 3 — Members of the Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony on two bills addressing sexual assault prevention and response on campuses. SB 5518 would create procedures to address campus sexual violence and SB 5719 would create a task force on campus sexual violence prevention. Joe Holliday, SBCTC director of student services, testified on both bills jointly.

We support both bills,” he said. “We pledge to continue to collaborate with you and with our higher education partners to keep sexual assault prevention and response a high priority.”

Holliday expressed concerns about the cost of a statewide public awareness campaign mandated by SB 5518 and ensuring clarity between federal and state requirements as colleges develop rules. He also reminded committee members that the proposals in the bills need to take into account that community and technical colleges are different environments than four-year universities.

The committee also held trustee confirmation hearings for Michael Deller, Everett Community College and Stassney Obregon, Bellevue College.

·         Deller’s testimony starts at 2:40
·         Obregon’s testimony starts at 5:44
·         Link to Holliday’s testimony starts at 1:54:04

Senators hear bill that would expand applied baccalaureate offerings

Feb. 2Joyce Hammer, SBCTC director of transfer education, spoke before the Senate Early Learning Committee Monday on SB 5391. The bill would direct SBCTC, along with the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB), to select up to five colleges to develop and offer applied baccalaureate programs in education. The programs would need to lead to teacher certification and admit students no later than the fall 2016 academic term.

Hammer expressed the community and technical colleges system’s support for the bill.

“Though the timeline is tight, our colleges are well positioned in their communities and with their local school districts to do this work,” she said.

Coming up next week

Next week, legislators will hold hearings on SBCTC system request bills on corrections education, Basic Education for Adults and fee waivers for active duty members of the military.