Legislative session kicks off with system request bill, budget asks
Senate Higher Education Committee hears a status update from higher education
Jan. 14 — Marty Brown, SBCTC’s executive director, on Thursday updated the Senate Higher Education Committee on the community and technical college system. The committee devoted its hearing time to a work session on the four-year institutions, community and technical colleges and an update on the Roadmap 2015 from the Washington Student Achievement Council.
Brown’s presentation focused on the current status of the college system, including providing senators with updated enrollment, demographic and transfer statistics. He also told committee members about college programs and initiatives like reverse transfer agreements, Guided Pathways (described below) and math achievement efforts underway.
“This is a lot more intrusive advising at the front end,” Brown said. “We’re starting to ask people ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ when you come in the door at community college.”
Brown highlighted the Job Skills Program, a grant program managed by SBCTC in which businesses and colleges partner to provide training to employees. He thanked senators for legislation that expanded the program allowing unused funds to roll over from one fiscal year to the next.
“We are already overprescribed for the biennium,” Brown said. “That’s a program, particularly when the economy is expanding, people want to use.”
Finally, Brown stressed the community and technical college system’s 2016 request to the Legislature, emphasizing budget shortfalls left in the biennial budget. The budget request includes fully funding salary increases for staff and faculty, which was only funded to about 83 percent; backfill for the tuition cut to applied baccalaureate programs, which was underfunded by about $1.9 million; and additional funding for capital projects, which was funded to about two-thirds of recent funding levels, with eight programs in the system’s project request pipeline left unfunded.
Five testify before Senate Ways & Means and House Capital Budget committees on system’s capital budget request
Jan. 14 and 15 — Five members of the community and technical college system testified before Thursday’s Senate Ways and Means Committee and Friday’s House Capital Budget Committee on college capital projects. Denise Yochum, president of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, voiced concern that the governor’s proposed supplemental budget only partially funded the system’s capital request. Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s Cascade Building project’s design funding is not included in governor’s proposed budget.
“We are concerned about the overall funding for your community and technical colleges in this governor’s budget,” Yochum said. “Even with the governor’s proposal, this will be the lowest biennia of funding for the community and technical college system in recent history.”
Nate Langstraat, vice president of administrative services at Whatcom Community College, testified before committee members on the college’s Learning Commons building design funding request. The project would integrate the college’s tutoring, math and writing center, library and other academic support services, freeing space that would be used for classrooms and labs. Financing for this project was included in the governor’s proposed budget.
“We really request that you please consider fully funding our system’s request,” he said.
Frank Ashby, vice president of administrative services at South Seattle College, told committee members about the college’s request for funding that would expand and renovate its Automotive Technology building. The project was not funded in the governor’s proposed budget.
“I strongly ask for your support in providing the full supplemental capital request from the State Board, including our Automotive Technology building project at South Seattle College,” he said
Suzie Benson, vice president of administrative services at Wenatchee Valley College, testified before the committee about the Wells Hall replacement project. Two-thirds of the building, built in 1952, would be replaced and upgraded to address structural, seismic, life-safety, accessibility and energy issues. The project, which is second on the system’s vetted list of capital project funding requests, was not funded in the governor’s proposed budget.
“The community really needs the project to move forward now,” she said.
Cheryl Roberts, president of Shoreline Community College, was the last to testify for the community and technical college system. The college’s proposed Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing building was not funded in the governor’s proposed budget.
“I’m really proud to be part of a system that is very collaborative,” Roberts said. “Funding the request down to our design project would allow us to meet the ever-growing demand of STEM and advanced manufacturing graduates that are needed at the state level.”
I-BEST and guided pathways focus of House Higher Education Committee meeting
Jan. 13 — The House Higher Education Committee convened a work session to discuss innovations at community and technical colleges. The conversation focused on two nationally recognized approaches to student success: I-BEST and guided pathways.
Jon Kerr, SBCTC director of Basic Education for Adults, highlighted Washington’s I-BEST program. I-BEST students work with two teachers in the classroom at the same time: one provides job-training or teaches an academic subject, while the other teaches basic skills in reading, math or English language. Students get the help they need while studying in college-level classes that lead directly to a career or to a university transfer.
“Students are no longer stuck in years of English language learning and basic skills classes. They’re actually earning college credits while they’re preparing for work,” Kerr said.
Doug Emory, dean of academics at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, said graduation rates for I-BEST students are three to four times what they are for students who take all their basic education courses first, before enrolling in a credit-bearing program.
“It’s been tremendously positive for us and our students,” he said.
Karen Lee, an I-BEST faculty member at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, explained how English language learners in I-BEST gain self-confidence.
“Once they get past that first hurdle of participating in class discussion, they feel they’ve done it. They’re able to participate more freely.”
After I-BEST, the conversation focused on guided pathways, a research-based approach that is gaining traction nationally. With guided pathways, colleges organize their courses together under five or six broad career interest areas, such as health care, business, liberal arts, social science or STEM. Upon enrolling, students enter classes in their interest area. As they become more knowledgeable about the area, they narrow down what type of credential they want to earn — for example, in nursing, accounting or criminal justice — and are given a step-by-step map for how to get there. They also receive advising and instructional supports throughout the journey.
As an example, Jan Yoshiwara, SBCTC’s deputy executive director for education, said a new student might be interested in computers, but not know the difference between pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science and pursuing a technical degree in network administration.
“We believe this is going to make a very significant difference in student completions in our system,” Yoshiwara said.
Marty Cavalluzzi, president of Pierce College Puyallup, discussed how the college is placing students on intentionally designed education paths. This includes mandatory new student orientations, enhanced advising, tutoring and new approaches to precollege (remedial) math.
Pierce College is the lead for the community and technical college system’s Washington Career Pathways web tool. Students click on a career field and then see a visual map that shows what kinds of jobs are available at each level of education (certificate, associate degree or bachelor's degree) and what they pay.
“This is a game changer,” he said.
Camille Clements, a Pierce College student and single mother of three, explained how she earned an Emergency Medical Technician certificate through the college’s military program. She then entered a corrections program officer program and started working on a chaperone program for sex offenders. Her next step is to transfer to a criminal justice program at a four-year university.
“Finding Pierce kind of saved us, actually,” she said. “I learned a lot of skill sets. I was introduced to a lot of different resources. Being a single mother of three, having parolees on either side of my week, school full-time, and working for campus safety for Pierce College, also full time, I have a lot on my plate. I have a lot to get done. And I’m doing it because of these programs.”
House Appropriations Committee hears testimony on governor-proposed operating budget
Jan. 13 — The House Appropriation Committee heard testimony on Gov. Inslee’s proposed operating budget. Arlen Harris, SBCTC legislative director, thanked the Legislature for providing salary increases and lowering tuition. However, he said the 2015-2017 budget funded only 83 percent of the impact of those salary increases.
Harris also applauded the Legislature’s decision to reduce tuition, but noted that the backfill did not fully cover lost tuition revenue from applied baccalaureate degrees.
Fixing these shortfalls in the supplemental budget would protect student programs and services from having their funds pulled away to cover the costs, he said. The governor’s proposed budget did not fill either of the funding shortfalls.
Harris also addressed other community and technical college system requests: expansion of the MESA community and technical college program to all 34 colleges, an added investment in the Opportunity Grant program, faculty increments, and advising and career planning support. He also expressed the system’s support for increasing the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship program.
Governor delivers annual State of the State address
Jan. 12 — Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his annual State of the State address on Tuesday outlining his priorities for the legislative session now underway. The speech, titled “A State of Confidence,” highlighted the governor’s vision of how to address a statewide teacher shortage, last year’s wildfires, the state’s mental health system and K-12 education investments.
“We need to put into place a framework for our future K-12 education investments. This is absolutely necessary this session,” Inslee said. “Our next deadline requires the Legislature to fully fund basic education in the 2017 legislative session, and there’s no reason we can’t do that.”
Inslee referenced legislation introduced this session intended to find a solution to the way the state funds basic education. The bill would create a bipartisan taskforce of House and Senate members tasked with finding a solution to K-12 districts’ overreliance on local levies.
“We’re not going to just fix a few potholes — we’re going to finish the job. That means actually financing these critical investments so our kids and grandkids get the education they deserve,” Inslee said.
Inslee also acknowledged the Legislature’s work during the 2015 session to pass a tuition cut at all public colleges and universities.
“Isn’t it great we’re the only state in the nation that passed a tuition cut last year?” Inslee said. “Republicans had a great idea to do that. I gladly give them credit. And I gladly give Democrats credit for coming in and saying we ought to cut tuition for everyone, including for students at our two-year colleges. And together, we found a way to pay for that. That’s something everyone here can celebrate.
For a video and transcript of Inslee’s State of the State address, visit the governor’s 2016 State of the State website.
Senate Ways & Means Committee hears testimony on governor’s budget proposal
Jan. 11 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee received public testimony on the governor’s proposed operating budget.
Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, thanked the governor for proposing a small investment in the MESA program. However, he said the community and technical college system is concerned that the governor’s spending plan did not address a 2015-2017 budget shortfall in funding for much-needed, and mandatory, salary increases or to completely backfill lost tuition revenue in applied baccalaureate degree programs.
“We want to give [faculty and staff] raises that were passed onto them. But unfortunately, in order to do that, our colleges are having to make tough decisions and making reductions on their campuses and in your districts,” Lutes said.
Coming up next week
Week two of legislative session will bring a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee on system-request bill SB 6161, which would require the Caseload Forecast Council to forecast the number of 25 to 44 year-olds in the state who do not have a high school diploma, high school equivalency, or credential. It would also request the forecast council to estimate the number of students expected to enroll in Basic Education for Adults programs at the colleges.
Two work sessions in the Senate and House Higher Education committees will cover credit for prior learning. The Senate Ways and Means Committee scheduled a work session on the costs of higher education, including student fees. SBCTC staff will work with the chairs of the Higher Education committees to schedule hearings on the system-requested corrections education bills, HB 2619 and SB 6260.