Friday, March 27, 2015

Committee work continues in week before second policy cutoff date

Committee work continued at a fast pace this week as the next policy cutoff date arrives Wednesday, April 1. Community and technical college system request bills on fee waivers, streamlining statutes and corrections all received hearings. The House operating and capital budget proposals were released today at 11:30 a.m. with hearings scheduled for Monday, March 30. Details will be provided in next week’s edition.

Tuition reduction bills heard in House Higher Education committee

March 26 — Bills to reduce student tuition and find dedicated funding for higher education received public testimony before the House Higher Education Committee.
ESSB 5954 would tie resident undergraduate tuition to a percent of the state’s average wage for all public colleges and universities. The percentages vary depending on whether the college is a community or technical college, a regional university or a research university.
With a cap of 6 percent of the state’s average wage, the community and technical college system would lose about $7 million per year.
The Legislature would also be required to keep, at a minimum, the allocations provided in the 2013-15 operating budget, plus additional funding to backfill any reductions in tuition revenue.
The second bill heard, HB 2201, would place tax revenue collected on financial institutions’ investments or loans into a fund to backfill any tuition reductions in the 2015-17 operating budget. The proposal would be sent to voters as a referendum.

Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified with concerns on both bills.

“We share the anxiety legislators and students have about high tuition and student debt, and respect the Legislature’s efforts to hold tuition study. But we can’t maintain the quality for our nearly 400,000 students with no additional state funds if tuition is held constant or reduced,” he said.

Link to testimony (starts at 68:19)

Corrections education focus of Senate committee hearing

March 24 — A wide array of people testified before the Senate Law and Justice Committee in favor of HB 1704, which would allow the Department of Corrections to use existing funds to offer associate degrees in prisons. Three community college representatives appeared before the committee to voice their support.

Luke Robins, Peninsula College president, pointed out that education helps offenders find jobs, re-enter society and avoid returning to a life of crime. For every dollar invested in prison education, taxpayers save $20, he said.

Sarah Sytsma, Tacoma Community College director of correctional education, discussed how education turns prisoners’ lives around. “Seeing how transformative postsecondary education is to offenders is truly inspiring,” she said. “Classrooms that encourage discussion and critical thinking are key places to promote civil behavior and will lead to long-term safety in our communities.”

David Murley, Spokane Community College dean of corrections education, said he sees the value of prison education despite being a “staunch conservative.”

“The question isn’t ‘why do we pay for this?’ We’re going to have to pay for them for the rest of their lives if we don’t do this.”

John Carlisle of Allegiance Staffing testified from a business perspective. “Having a skilled worker come into our office is very important. It gives them a trajectory. They can see the vision. They can see where they’re going in their life as opposed to a dead end job,” he said.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:15:47)

Senate committee hears system request bill, votes on system supported bills

March 24The Senate Higher Education Committee heard the community and technical college system-request bill on cleaning up statues related to the colleges (HB 1961). Alison Grazzini, SBCTC legislative director, testified in favor of the bill.

“[It] expires old statutes, it cleans up provisions when technical colleges joined our college system in the early ‘90s, it adds technical colleges to existing provisions, and provides general cleanup to make things read a little easier,” she said.

The committee later voted on appointments and bills advancing them to the next step in the legislative process:

·         Merisa T Heu-Weller, Bellevue College Board of Trustees
·         Douglass Jackson, Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees
·         Megan S O'Bryan, Skagit Valley College Board of Trustees
·         SHB 1052: Requiring institutions of higher education to make an early registration process available to spouses and domestic partners of active members of the military.
·         HB 1706: Authorizing waivers of building fees and services and activities fees for certain military service members.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:15:18)

House committee hears sexual violence prevention bills and fee waiver bill

March 24Three bills of interest to the community and technical college system were heard Tuesday by the House Higher Education Committee. Two — SSB 5518 and SSB 5719 — address campus sexual violence and prevention. The third bill, supported by community and technical college system, would waive building and activities fees for active duty members of the military (SB 5620).

Joe Holliday, SBCTC director student services, testified in favor of SSB 5518 and SSB 5719, taking the opportunity to remind committee members of the uniqueness of community and technical colleges.

“We appreciate how the bill is more closely aligned with federal requirements, as we testified in the Senate,” Holliday said of SSB 5518. “We are literally awash in federal requirements both legislative and executive and trying our best to keep up with those so we are very appreciative that the bill is seeking to be aligned with federal requirements.”

Community and technical colleges are already working to implement a model student conduct code and developing procedures and connecting students with resources, which SSB 5518 would require colleges to do. The bill would also require the 34 colleges to conduct a campus climate survey of employees and students and develop memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies.

SSB 5719 would create a taskforce on sexual violence prevention. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges would participate in the taskforce along with the state’s other colleges and universities, the Washington Student Achievement Council, the Council of Presidents, law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.

“Community and technical colleges’ environments are fundamentally different than university environments,” Holliday said while testifying on SSB 5719. “We’re happy to see our representation on the taskforce. We’d like to see identified best practices in non-residential campuses, [and] best practices involving adjunct faculty as supporters.”

Committee members also heard from Nick Lutes, SBCTC’s operating budget director, who testified in favor of SB 5620.

“It’s a very important bill for a number of current active duty members who are receiving tuition assistance on our campuses who would come the next semester or next quarter and find that they have an extra $200 on their bill,” Lutes said.

·         Holliday on SSB 5518 starts at 29:49
·         Holliday on SSB 5719 starts at 45:53
·         Lutes on SB 5620 starts at 50:36

Dual credit bill heard in Senate education committee

March 23Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified Monday before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee on dual credit opportunities for high school-aged students (E2SHB 1546). He expressed the community and technical college system’s support of Running Start and College in the High School, which provide 11th and 12th graders a chance to earn high school and college credit at the same time.

“Dual credit is a very valuable tool for access to higher education in our state,” Brown said. “We urge you to expand it and at the same time continue the rigor that is needed while returning programs to their original intents.”

The community and technical college system in the 2013-14 academic year saw more than 20,000 high school juniors and seniors taking classes through Running Start. Nearly 4,000 high school students were served by six community and technical colleges through College in the High School programs.

The bill with amendments passed the committee Tuesday and is now waiting a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The amended version allows a program called “Running Start in the High School” to be offered only at high schools that are 30 miles away from institutions of higher education, which already offer dual-credit programs in high schools and on college campuses.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:14:28)

Coming up next week

Next week, policy committees wrap up their work on bills by the Wednesday cutoff date. Policy bills must be voted out of those committees in order to continue in the legislative process. The House operating and capital budget proposals are scheduled for public hearings on Monday and voted out on Tuesday.