Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Operating budget wins praise, Legislature still in overtime

As the clock ticked toward a July 1 government shutdown, the Legislature approved a 2015-17 operating budget that won high praise for prioritizing higher education. Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, issued this statement:

“We thank the Legislature and governor for prioritizing higher education in the final state operating budget. This plan recognizes the direct link between tuition levels and state funding for our colleges, and helps to rebuild Washington’s role in providing affordable, outstanding higher education.” (Read the full statement.)

Although the Legislature has wrapped up most of its work – including operating, transportation and capital budgets – lawmakers are still working overtime in a third special session.

The sticking point is funding for Initiative 1351, which requires K-12 class size reductions. The operating budget includes class size reductions for grades K-3, but does not reduce class sizes for the upper grades. The initiative is now state law, so the Legislature either needs to fund the initiative to the tune of about $2 billion, or suspend it through a two-thirds majority vote from both houses.

This third, 30-day special session ends July 27.

Final operating budget

The 2015-17 operating budget, embodied in SB 6052, was signed into law June 30. Below are highlights for the community and technical college system:

Tuition and financial aid

·         The operating fee portion of tuition is reduced 5 percent for all levels of coursework beginning this fall. In fall 2016, the operating fee stays flat for 2-year degrees or shorter, but it decreases by an additional 15 percent for upper level coursework (applied bachelor’s degrees). Beginning fall 2017, operating fee increases cannot exceed the 14-year average percent increase in the median hourly wage. 
·         All projected lost tuition revenue is backfilled per the accompanying legislation (2ESSB 5954).
·         State Need Grant funding was reduced to reflect lower tuition rates, as were the award amounts for public-college students.


·         The policy is for all employees to receive a 3 percent salary increase in FY 2016 and 1.8 percent in FY 2017.
·         Allows for the use of local funds to pay for faculty increments for the 2015-17 biennium only.

Other policy changes

·         Allied Health: $425,000 annually for Seattle Colleges to operate the Allied Health Programs at Seattle Central.
·         WATR Center Aerospace: $580,000 in FY 2016 and another $420,000 in FY 2017 for expansion of the fabrication composite wing incumbent worker training program.
·         Bellevue Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: $750,000 in one-time funding for initial start-up costs and to develop a plan to offer a BS in computer science.

Final capital budget

The 2015-17 capital budget, embodied in HB 1115, was signed into law June 30. However, the measure authorizing the sale of bonds to finance the capital projects (ESHB 1166) still awaits action in the state Senate.

Below are highlights for the community and technical college system:

·         The overall funding level for community and technical colleges is about 75 percent of the requested level.
·         The budget funds projects in priority order down through the design for an Advanced Manufacturing Technologies building at Clover Park.
·         The budget includes reductions of 4 percent to 11 percent in construction funding for individual projects.
·         In addition to sufficient reappropriations for all major projects, the legislative budget includes limited reappropriations for minor work projects that were not completed in the 2013-15 biennium.
·         The budget includes authority to use certificates of participation (COPs) backed by local funds as requested.

State Board, trustees confirmed by the Senate

Carol Landa-McVicker was appointed and Shaunta Hyde was reappointed and both confirmed to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney was appointed to the State Board and awaits Senate confirmation.

Trustees confirmed for their first term:

·         Teresita Batayola, Seattle Colleges
·         Kathryn Bennett, Skagit Valley College
·         Harry Carthum, Grays Harbor College
·         Michael Ciraulo, Clark College
·         Michael Deller, Everett Community College
·         Rosalinda Mendoza, Yakima Valley Community College
·         Stassney Obregon, Bellevue College
·         Juanita Richards, Big Bend Community College
·         Janice Wigen, Community Colleges of Spokane
·         Doris Wood, Centralia College
·         Merisa Heu-Weller; Bellevue College
·         Douglass Jackson, Shoreline Community College
·         Megan O’Bryan, Skagit Valley College

Trustees reappointed and confirmed:

·         Daniel Altmayer, Highline College
·         Sherry Armijo, Columbia Basin College
·         Tim Douglas, Whatcom Community College
·         Darcey Fugman-Small, Walla Walla Community College
·         Anne Hamilton, Lake Washington Institute of Technology
·         James Lowery, Centralia College
·         Julie Miller, Cascadia College
·         Tyler Page, Renton Technical College
·         Jacqueline Rosenblatt, Pierce College District
·         Patricia Whitefoot, Yakima Valley Community College
·         Linda Cowan, Green River College
·         Lawrence (Mike) Glenn, Peninsula College


The following bills of significance were passed and delivered to the governor:

2ESSB 5954 reduces the operating fee portion of tuition. Beginning in fall 2017, caps operating fee increases to no more than the 14-year average percent increase in the state median wage. (For details, see “final operating budget” above.)  Awaits governor action.

HB 1706 grants permissive waivers for building fees and student and activity fees for active duty military personnel. Signed into law.

HB 1961 streamlines state statutes for community and technical colleges. Signed into law.

SB 5638 makes permanent, under law, an ongoing budget provision that allows students to take as few as three credit hours per quarter (or semester equivalent) to receive or renew State Need Grants. Signed into law.

ESSB 5355 modifies the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Awaits governor action.

Coming up

The third special session is still underway. Legislative News will be posted again when significant action is taken.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Legislature heads into double overtime, new budget proposals released

Governor Inslee called a second special session that began Friday, May 29. This second round of overtime cannot go longer than 30 days. Legislators are still negotiating a final budget that includes state employee compensation, a tuition freeze, financial aid funding, and a number of other policy items related to community and technical colleges.

Senate, House release updated budget proposals

 June 1 – House Democrats released an updated budget proposal, 2SHB 1106, and held a public hearing Tuesday, June 2 in the House Appropriations Committee. The $38.4 billion proposal relies on incoming revenue from numerous sources, but unlike the Senate, relies on new revenue from a capital gains tax. Highlights for the community and technical college system include:

·         A tuition freeze, with a modest inflation increase.

·         Cost of living increase of 3% (2016) and 1.8% (2017) for all employees; allows for funding of faculty increments using local funds in 2015-17.

·         Increased funding for the State Need Grant.

·         Expansion of the MESA Community College program in FY 2017 ($2.5M).

·         Expansion of allied health programs at Seattle Central College ($425K).

·         Expansion of aerospace and advanced manufacturing apprenticeships ($1.25M).

·         Funding for the Labor Education and Research Center at South Seattle College ($500K).

·         Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Bellevue College starting in FY 2017 ($750K).

·         Expansion of the Year-Up program at Bellevue College to include one college in Eastern Washington beginning in 2017 ($800K).

Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, testified before the committee and shared information from the community and technical college system perspective.

 “Thank you for continuing to fully fund collective bargaining agreements and the COLAs contained within those agreements,” he said. “Freezing tuition and providing a modest inflation increase in our budget helps keep college affordable for our students and also recognizes that costs continue to increase for campuses.” 

 2SHB 1106 was voted out of committee on Wednesday, June 3 and has been referred to the House Rules Committee for further action.

 May 29 — Senate Republicans released an updated budget proposal, SSB 6050 and held an executive session in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The new $37.9 proposal also relies on incoming state revenue from a variety of sources including marijuana. Highlights for the community and technical college system include:

·         Implementation of ESSB 5954, reducing tuition by 1.8% backfilled with state funds. Tuition is expected to increase by 2.6% the second year.

·         Cost of living increase of 3% (2016) and 1.8% (2017) for all employees. Funding for COLAs is tied to passage of SB 6126.

·         Composite wing fabrication training at the WATR Center ($1.58M).

·         Feasibility study for a potential two-year college in Graham ($300K).

·         Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Bellevue College starting in FY 2017 ($750K).

·         Implementation of E2SSB 5179, concerning paraeducators, if passed by both chambers ($115K).

 SSB 6050 was voted out of committee and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee for further action.
Legislative action on computer science bill

 May 28 – During the waning hours of the first special session, legislators passed SHB 1813 that expands computer science education through new K-12 standards, a scholarship program, and better coordination between secondary and postsecondary education systems.

 Sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, SHB 1813 aims to ultimately increase the number of computer science degrees in Washington state. This bill has been delivered to the governor for a signature.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Special session continues, community, technical college issues highlighted nationally

Legislators continue budget negotiations on 2015-17 operating and capital budget proposals as the first special session nears an end on Thursday, May 28. If legislators are unable to agree on a state spending plan, the governor may call another 30-day special session.

Senate committee hears transfer presentation

May 14 — The Senate Higher Education Committee held a work session on Washington’s nationally recognized transfer system. Speaking on behalf of the two and four-year higher education systems were Dr. Joyce Hammer, SBCTC transfer director, and Dr. Jane Sherman, Council of Presidents associate director for academic policy and WSU vice provost for academic policy and evaluation. They shared how the two sectors work together to make sure credits transfer and students know which courses to take. Among the highlights:

·         Transfer students earned 40 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded at Washington public colleges and universities with emphasis in business, allied health, education, biology and social science.
·         71 percent of community and technical college students who transfer with an associate degree successfully complete a bachelor’s degree.
·         Direct transfer agreements and common course numbering create a clear route for students to continue their college education in upper division coursework.
·         Work groups such as the Joint Transfer Council bring together college and university representatives to solve issues and further improve Washington’s transfer system.

Sherman and Hammer also explained work is underway to create a major-related transfer pathway in computer science and fine arts.

Also presenting were Jim West, Washington Student Achievement Council associate director of academic affairs; Tom Fitzsimmons, Independent Colleges of Washington vice president; and Ben Laskey, University of Washington Tacoma student.

PACTC meets with key legislators

Representative Chris Reykdal and presidents' assistants
Representative Chris Reykdal and PACTC
May 15 — The Presidents’ Assistants for Community and Technical Colleges (PACTC) recently met to discuss Washington’s rulemaking process and learned more about the SBCTC. Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, took PACTC members on a tour of the capitol, where they met Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, and Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Representative Ross Hunter and presidents' assistants
Representative Ross Hunter and PACTC

Community and technical colleges highlight college and career pathways in D.C.

May 5-7 Jon Kerr, SBCTC Basic Education for Adults director and Alison Grazzini, SBCTC legislative director, accompanied Seattle Central College graduate Taleah Mitchell to Washington, D.C. to discuss college and career pathways for nontraditional students.

Senator Murray with Seattle Central alumna Taleah Mitchell, SBCTC Basic Education for Adults Director Jon Kerr and Government Relations Director Alison Grazzini
Senator Murray with Taleah Mitchell, Jon Kerr and Alison Grazzini
Mitchell was invited by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) regarding her pathway to college through Seattle Central’s I-BEST program. Mitchell also discussed how a comprehensive financial aid package coupled with advising services led to her successful completion of a Business Technology certificate.

Sen. Murray and members of the HELP committee are holding summer work sessions to discuss reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). This Act is important to the higher education system as it funds the Pell Grant and other important programs.

Future editions

Future editions of Legislative News will be published as more news unfolds in Olympia relevant to community and technical college issues.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another bill deadline approaches, budget talks continue

The Legislature is quickly approaching an April 15 cutoff date for House bills to pass out of the Senate, and for Senate bills to pass out of the House.

A system-request bill (HB 1706) to waive building and student activity fees for active duty military personnel has passed the House and is now in the Senate Rules committee awaiting a floor vote. Another system-request bill to streamline statutes (HB 1961) has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

Meanwhile, budget writers continue to work on 2015-2017 operating and capital budget proposals.

Senate Ways and Means approves capital plan

April 9 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the capital budget, which is now in the Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor vote (EHB 1115).
·         The proposal provides $269.5 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 73 percent of the system’s overall request of $367 million.
·         Similar to the governor’s proposal, it follows the system priority list but funds only the first 16 of 24 projects on the list.
·         Similar to capital proposals by the governor and the House, the plan cuts funding for construction projects on the list by 5 to 13 percent.

Community and technical college system representatives shared concerns at an April 8 hearing.

Dr. Jean Hernandez, Edmonds Community College president, urged full funding of the system’s capital priorities list, including design funds for a new Science, Engineering and Technology Building at that college.

“This is a building that will allow us to both address the capacity and the need for the science areas, including allied health, engineering, natural sciences, materials science and construction programs at the college,” she said. “In addition, it will allow us to train teachers in the science and math fields through our partnership with Central Washington University.”

Stuart Trippel, Shoreline Community College executive director for business and student support services, discussed the need for design funding for a new Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing project. The project will replace five, one-story buildings that are about 50 years old with one, four-story building for STEM programs that serve educational needs between Seattle and Tacoma. With full funding, the system can “move forward with first-rate projects advanced by the State Board for the 2015-2017 biennium,” he said.

Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services, shared concerns about additional reductions in construction funding for a College Instruction Center. The project replaces an aging art, music and theater building with a single new multipurpose facility for health occupations and other programs.

“By going through OFM’s budget evaluation study last year, we validated the program needs and the cost estimate and have already cut millions of dollars from the original project budget. Further trimming the funding…doesn’t account for the infrastructure necessary for this project.”

Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, expressed appreciation for construction funds for a new Student Services building, but explained that the proposed funding is significantly less than the estimated costs of construction. “We’ve kept the costs consistent with our design phase request and the project is now ready to bid. Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to this project and the proposed substitute is a $1.5 million cut to the construction budget.”

Senate Ways & Means hears bill on dual credit opportunities

April 6 Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on dual credit opportunities provided by colleges and universities for high school students (E2HB 1546). The bill now prioritizes funding for students of low-income and those attending small and rural high schools. It also clarifies the definitions of “Running Start” and “College in the High School” dual-credit programs.

We strongly support dual credit programs as a key to higher education access,” Brown said. “We support the subsidies that are provided here, we support eliminating the use of Running Start funds for courses offered in the high school, and we support the small and rural school provisions.”

The bill was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee April 7 and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting further action.

Coming up later this week

The House and Senate will continue to vote on each other’s bills next week to meet the April 15 cutoff date for floor passage. Budget discussions will heat up as the Legislature counts down to the April 26 end of regular session.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Operating, capital budgets take center stage

The House and Senate focused on their proposed operating and budget plans last week. The House sent both its operating and capital budgets to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate voted into the night on its own operating budget plan, only to put it on hold until this afternoon. The Senate has not yet introduced a capital budget proposal.

Senate to resume floor action on operating budget today

April 3 — The Senate worked overnight and into the early morning hours on Friday, April 3 to pass its version of the operating budget. Fatigued, the Senate decided to resume the debate on this afternoon. For details on SB 5077 and a summary of earlier testimony, see the March 31 entry below.
House approves proposed operating budget

April 2 – The House of Representatives approved its operating budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in ESHB 1106, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition and provides institutional support to help offset inflation and other costs.

·         Includes funding for the State Need Grant. For 2013-14, 33,557 eligible students were unable to receive a State Need Grant due to insufficient funds. Just more than half of those students — 18,774 — attended community and technical colleges.

·         Fully funds collective bargaining agreements, including salary increases, as negotiated by the governor’s office: 3% the first year, 1.8% the second (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College). Those increases are also given to I-732-covered employees. Remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are also fully funded.

·         Provides funding to expand the MESA Community and Technical College Program to seven more colleges, bringing the total to 13. The program helps under-represented students succeed in college and pursue STEM careers.

Two floor amendments addressed topics that had previously received testimony from the community and technical college system.   

·         One amendment, supported by the college system, would allow the Department of Corrections to use existing state funds to offer associate degrees in prison.

·         The other amendment would allow, for the 2015-2017 biennium, community and technical colleges to use local funds to pay for increments when the state fails to do so. System representatives had previously expressed concern that this would draw funds away from programs and services needed by students and use one-time funds for ongoing expenses.

Earlier in the week (March 30), SBCTC Executive Director Marty Brown and Pierce College District Chancellor Michele Johnson testified before the House Appropriations Committee. 

“This is a good budget for our system of 34 community and technical colleges and the nearly 400,000 students we serve,” said Brown.  “Thank you for the tuition freeze coupled with the institutional support to reflect inflation and other costs so our students and colleges can successfully plan for the future.”

Johnson applauded the House for fully funding collective bargaining agreements negotiated through the governor’s office. 

 “As you know, [faculty and staff] have not received an increase by the Legislature since 2008 or a COLA under I-732. Not only will this boost morale, but it will go a long way in helping us retain and recruit quality faculty and staff,” she said. 

Link to testimony  (starts at 3:00:07)

House approves proposed capital budget

April 2 — The House of Representatives approved its capital budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in EHB 1115, the plan:

·         Provides $272 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 74 percent of the system’s request of $367.

·         Follows the system priority list but funds only the first 15 of 24 projects on the list, one less than the governor’s capital budget proposal.

Earlier in the week (March 30) A panel of community and technical college representatives  expressed concern that many projects only received partial funding and nine were left off the list altogether.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president, discussed the community and technical college system’s competitive process for selecting and ranking projects on the capital priority list. Each year, the system uses a predetermined set of criteria to classify and prioritize capital projects. That list is submitted to the Legislature as its capital budget request.

“The scoring process gives colleges a level playing field in which to compete for the state’s limited capital budget resources,” Yochum said. “This competition is tough and only the best proposals are added to the system’s request. While we appreciate the [House] following our prioritized list, we are concerned with the reduction in funding for projects that have already been designed, and we are concerned with the overall funding level which is proposed to be the lowest in recent history.”

The panel also stressed that new projects and building renovations were necessary for colleges to continue delivering high quality programs to meet student, employer and community demand.

 Linda Schoonmaker, Clover Park Technical College vice president for finance and administration, discussed funding to design the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.

 This project will allow us to continue providing relevant professional and technical education in a broad range of career fields to meet the needs of local students and businesses,” she said. “By consolidating our manufacturing programs into this new space, we will have a facility that allows us to serve more students as well as one that serves the high-dollar and state-of-the-art equipment across the programs.”

 Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services,

pointed out that building projects serve not only an economic development purpose, but also a practical one. The college’s request for design funding to renovate a Shop Building — which houses welding, composites and precision machinery programs — would help meet local demand for aerospace training and also include an elevator or ADA access to programs on the building’s second floor.

 Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, discussed a proposed $2.4 million cut in construction funding for a Student Services building.

 “Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to the project,” he said. Funding the construction phase as proposed will require us to raise more money or reduce the scope of work before it could be bid.”

·         Yochum starts at 15:52
·         Riveland starts at 17:57
·         Schoonmaker starts at 19:44
·         Ward starts at 21:21

Senate Ways and Means approves budget plan

 April 2 – The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the operating budget proposal. Contained in SB 5077, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition the first year and reduces it the second year by 2% starting at 16 credits. It fully offsets lost tuition revenue, but includes no institutional support for inflation.

·         Reduces the State Need Grant to reflect lower tuition.

·         Rejects collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the governor’s office (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College).  For employees covered by those agreements, the Senate proposes a $1,000 increase per employee for each of the next two years and is dependent upon agreement being reached by June 30. The $1,000 increase also applies to nonrepresented employees. I-732-covered employees are scheduled to receive COLAs anticipated to be 1.8% the first year and 1.3% the second year. The plan provides state funding for 85% of the above salary increases with the colleges providing the remaining balance from existing resources, a $3 million cost to the system. The remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are funded at 65% an additional cost of $3 to $4 million.

·         Includes an estimated $3.6 million “lean savings” cut in the back of the budget.

 Earlier in the week (March 31) Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified on the measure before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. He thanked the committee for freezing tuition and backfilling the second year reduction, and for providing funding for I-732. However, he expressed concern about the rejection of negotiated collective bargaining agreements and the compensation-funding burden placed on colleges.

 Coming up later this week

 The Senate will resume floor action on its budget plan today. Policy bills that have survived thus far have until April 7 to pass fiscal committees.