Basic Education for Adults bill earns committee approval
House Higher Education Committee unanimously votes in favor of basic education caseload forecast bill
Jan. 22 — The House Higher Education Committee unanimously approved system-request bill HB 2329 out of committee and to the next stage of the legislative process. The bill would require the Caseload Forecast Council to forecast the number of state residents, ages 25 to 44, who do not have a high school diploma or credential, and the number of students expected to enroll in basic education for adults courses at community and technical colleges.
“It will help with doing revenue forecast as well as load forecast for all of our community colleges,” said Rep. Larry Haler, the bill’s prime sponsor.
Rep. Drew Hansen, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, also spoke in favor of the bill.
“We agree we need to have a better idea of just how much the community and technical college system is doing for basic education. Putting that into the caseload forecast so we can know the scale of the issue that we are confronting strikes us as a very helpful and good idea,” he said.
One day earlier, on Jan. 21, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony on companion measure SB 6161.
Jon Kerr, SBCTC director of Basic Education for Adults, testified in favor of the Senate bill.
“Knowing how many adults in our state require basic education would provide the Legislature and the college system with a clearer picture of precisely what programming is needed to meet our state’s educational attainment goals,” Kerr said.
Senate Higher Education Committee hears testimony on student fees
Jan. 21 — The Senate Higher Education Committee held a work session on student fees to better understand the full cost to a student of attending a college or university. Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, and Dr. Ed Brewster, president of Grays Harbor College, told committee members about fees affecting community and technical college students.
Lutes explained the different types of fees — including student and activity (S&A) fees, technology fees and course fees — and how they are set by the state and by individual colleges.
“Obviously, we don’t have dormitories and large food programs and things that of that nature — so our campus life fees aren’t nearly as rich and robust as the four-years — but certainly there are issues that each campus needs to deal with individually with their students and the administrations and the trustees work with the students to set up those fees,” he said.
Brewster expanded on Lutes’ testimony to explain how students are involved in fee decisions at Grays Harbor College. Technology fee spending decisions are made by a college committee made up of a majority of students. Decisions about how to spend S&A fees are made entirely by students. Students, he said, voted to assess themselves a fee for space in a future building on campus.
“We’ve been assessing those students throughout the last five years or so, and that’s to pay for student-use space that will be in this building because the state won’t pay for things like space for student government, cafeterias and those kinds of things; those are all funded by students,” he said.
Credit for prior learning topic of House Higher Education work session
Jan. 20 — Representatives from Pierce College on Wednesday testified before the House Higher Education Committee during a work session on credit for prior learning. Jo Ann Baria, vice president of workforce, economic and professional development, and Christina DuWors, Washington Career Pathways project manager, told committee members about efforts by the community and technical college system, and Pierce College in particular, to award credit for prior learning to members of the military.
“We put some polices into place pretty early in terms of prior learning, but what we were doing, we found, was we were giving a lot of generic credit,” Baria said. “So they [members of the military] could get an AT-general and they could get 45 credits of generic credit toward that degree, but as we progress through prior learning, we started to think ‘well no, we need to give them specific credits based on their competencies.’”
Baria told committee members about the experience of developing a medic to nursing program using credit for prior learning. Nursing, Baria said, was chosen because it’s a high-demand field and colleges were seeing high interest from people looking to enter nursing programs. A statewide workgroup worked on developing a process, criteria and common competencies that would allow service members to get into the field and apply knowledge learned in the military.
“We wanted to start to align some pathways so that our transitioning military didn’t have to program-shop for credits; that those things would be established statewide,” she said. “That takes a lot of very meaningful conversations with faculty, directors of nursing and those kinds of people who control those gateway decisions."
DuWors walked committee members through the development of WA Career Paths, a website intended to connect active duty service members, service members transitioning out of the military and veterans with college programs. The site is part of the VIE-25 program — Veterans Industry Education — a governor-initiated program that connects service members with career credentials during their last six months of military service so they qualify for in-demand jobs right away.
“They needed to be employment ready within six months into a top industry career that would have a good starter job that would have quick career opportunities,” DuWors said. “And, of course, the training, because they’re still active duty, needed to be within 25 miles of the installation to which they are assigned when they’re finishing up.”
Veterans are focus of Senate Higher Education Committee
Jan. 19 — The Senate Higher Education Committee held a veterans-focused work session that included a discussion of prior learning assessments and veteran student centers. The conversation highlighted how colleges and universities help veterans access GI Bill benefits and higher education, creating opportunities to help veterans re-enter the civilian workforce.
Jim West, Washington Student Achievement Council associate director of academic affairs and policy, and John Neace, Eastern Washington University senior director of interdisciplinary studies, gave an overview of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Workgroup activities related to veterans.
The work group focuses on increasing the number of students who receive credit for prior learning and on improving PLA policies and practices statewide.
Scott Copeland, SBCTC student services policy associate, and Dave Millet, Eastern Washington University veterans resource center director, described veterans service centers.
“About 20,000 veterans, active duty, their dependents, and spouses attend Washington’s community and technical colleges,” Copeland said. “If we put them all together in one location, it would be the third largest campus in the state after UW and WSU.”
He described veterans’ diverse college-going experience, ranging from having prior college credits when they arrive to none at all. About half earn workforce degrees to prepare for careers, while the other half work toward bachelor’s degrees and plan to transfer to a university or earn a bachelor of applied science at one of the colleges.
“The community and technical colleges measure veteran success in many ways,” Copeland said. “Success could be completing a degree or certificate. Or it could be employment without finishing a degree. Or transferring without a degree.”
Veteran service centers at the colleges vary widely. They range from a one-person shop to centers with multiple staff, but each center gives veterans a place to gather and find information. Some centers, established by student veteran volunteers, have since evolved into robust offices. Smaller colleges have less than 100 veteran students and some serve very large numbers.
Pierce College, Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Shoreline Community College and Olympic College received U.S. Department of Education grants ranging from $318,000 to about $370,000 to establish Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. Among other things, the grants require establishing a veteran student support team that includes representatives from admissions, registration, financial aid, veteran benefits, academic advising, student health, personal or mental health counseling, career advising, disabilities services, and any other office of the institution that provides support to veteran students on campus.
“The key is that the colleges have to develop a plan to sustain the program after the grants expire,” said Copeland, explaining that high-impact support services are expensive to deliver.
Senators hear update of ctcLink software implementation
Jan. 19 — Marty Brown, SBCTC’s executive director, and Dr. Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College in Port Angeles, testified Tuesday before the Senate Ways & Means Committee as part of a work session on the state’s Chief Information Office. Brown and Robins gave senators an update on the ctcLink project and its implementation status. Robins is also chair of the Technology Committee of the Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges.
“This is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, enterprise systems online right now in the country. Not just in our state, but in the country,” Brown said.
Brown told senators ctcLink will replace the 30-plus year-old COBOL-based system currently in use by the college system. In 2007, the community and technical college system developed a strategic technology plan that led to the development of the ctcLink system. The project is about a year behind the initial schedule. Four pilot locations launched in August: Tacoma Community College, Spokane Community College, Spokane Falls Community College and the Community Colleges of Spokane district office. The remaining community and technical colleges will come online in waves over the next several years.
“It hasn’t been perfect. It’s running, but it hasn’t been perfect,” Brown said.
Brown also updated senators on ctcLink’s budget, which was first projected to cost $100 million to fully implement the system at all 34 colleges, three college district offices and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Due to the extended timeline, however, Brown told senators he expects the project to cost $110 million when complete.
“The fall quarter was really difficult for Tacoma and Spokane colleges – very hard for students, very hard for faculty, very hard for administrators,” Brown said. “Winter quarter started the fourth of January and has been smoother because we figured out some of the things.”
Robins echoed Brown’s testimony that the transition to ctcLink has been challenging, but that progress is being made to correct issues before more colleges adopt the new system.
Robins also outlined lessons learned from the first stage of implementation, including data conversion, payroll and business processes, interfacing with outside software products, and individual access privileges.
“In the long-haul, this is going to be a great process and a great project for the whole system that will allow us to do our business more efficiently and more effectively,” he said.
Free community and technical college proposal unveiled at news conference
Jan. 18 — Legislators held a news conference to unveil a plan to provide students with free tuition at Washington community and technical colleges. The program, called “Washington Promise,” aims to increase community and technical college enrollment by offering free tuition regardless of financial need. In return, students would need to make satisfactory academic progress and complete a student success course. The measure is contained in SB 6481, cosponsored by state Sen. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. David Frockt. The House companion bill is HB 2820 sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollett.
“We know that a high school diploma, while still foundational for every student, is simply not enough,” said Jayapal. “Washington’s community and technical college system is one of the best in the country … We believe that this is an economic and moral imperative for this state and we’re thrilled to be introducing this bill.”
Rep. Gerry Pollett said the bill would give everyone in Washington a fair chance to pursue a college education.
Sen. David Frockt said offering free community and technical college tuition is vital for the state to reach its education goal that 70 percent of high school adults have a higher education credential.
The podium was then turned over to Sarah Phillips, a South Seattle College student who is the first person in her family to go to college. Phillips hailed programs like the 13th Year Promise Scholarship at South Seattle College. The program guarantees that graduates from certain high schools can attend South Seattle tuition-free for the first year.
“My family struggled financially, so as the oldest daughter, I had to leave community college in order to provide for them,” said Phillips. “I was able to go back to South because of the support I received. It is my dream to take my passion all the way to a PhD in order to teach and research at the highest level.”
Dr. Warren Brown, president of North Seattle College, said the entire Seattle College District — North, Central, South and the Seattle Vocational Institute — supports the free tuition proposal. He said tuition-free programs return more money to the economy than they cost.
“Seattle is very excited about this. We know these programs work,” said Brown. “One thing that hurts academic success is part-time student status. So you have students, like many at North Seattle College, who have to work hard to make ends meet in a very high priced town like Seattle plus pay tuition. Taking one course here and one course there — that’s going to hurt their success because they’re not going to be able to succeed.”
Dr. Elizabeth Pluhta, associate vice president of college relations and advancement at South Seattle College, described the 13th Year Promise Scholarship as a “phenomenal success.” Removing financial barriers and treating every high school student as a future college student makes all the difference, she said.
Coming up next week
The highlight of next week will be a Thursday hearing before the Senate Higher Education Committee. The hearing will begin with a committee work session on the MESA program. Dr. Rich Cummins, president from Columbia Basin College, will join colleagues from the University of Washington to discuss how MESA helps under-represented students pursue STEM degrees. The community and technical college system is asking the Legislature to invest in expanding the MESA program from the current six colleges to all 34 colleges.
Following the MESA work session will be a public hearing on system request bill SB 6260. This bill would authorize community colleges to offer postsecondary education in the state prisons to reduce recidivism. Inmates with 5 years or less remaining on their sentence would be given priority for additional education. The bill requires that the goals of the bill be accomplished with existing resources with no additional financial investment from the state.
Next week in Olympia, college presidents and trustees will be in town for conferences and meetings with legislators.