College system-requested bill passes Senate, hearings continue as the first month of session ends
One of the college system's requested bills, SB 5113, passed the Senate Wednesday on a 47 to 0 vote. The bill, if it becomes law, would grant a high school diploma to students over the age of 16 who complete an associate degree.
"We heard some very compelling testimony from the Open Doors Program at Green River College, and I particularly want to thank Carrie, Deandre and Kian for their testimony in in support of a great program there that is exemplary and typifies some of the wonderful programs we have around the state to help students both finish their community college associate degree and their high school diploma simultaneously, and get them on the path towards better opportunities," Sen. Marko Liias, the bill's prime sponsor, said on the Senate floor.
Sen. Jeff Holy, the ranking member on the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee also spoke in favor. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
College system-requested bills heard in House Education Committee
Feb. 14 — The House Education Committee at its hearing Thursday took up the college system’s two requested bills. HB 1714 would grant a high school diploma to students over the age of 16 who complete an associate degree. Under current law, community and technical colleges may grant a high school diploma to students who complete an associate degree who are over the age of 21, enrolled through Running Start, or attend one of the three technical high schools located within a technical college. The Senate version of HB 1714, SB 5113, passed off of the Senate floor Wednesday with a 47-0 vote.
Rep. Debra Entenman, the bill’s prime sponsor and vice chair of the House College and Workforce Development Committee, told Education Committee members she brought the bill forward because of her experience as a graduate of Highline College and as a trustee at Renton Technical College.
“Both of these experiences have, in many ways, shown me that, one, I believe that we underestimate the wonderful work that community and technical colleges do, and I believe that we are a part of a continuum of the education system — and that we are not in competition with each other — and as part of that, I think that the opportunity for a student to receive a diploma in a community or technical college is just as worthy as receiving a diploma from the high school,” Entenman said.
Troy Goracke, a policy associate for basic education for adults at the State Board, Carrie O’Brien, a case manager for the Open Doors program at Green River College, and Kian Ford, a student in the Open Doors program at Green River College, testified in favor of the bill’s passage.
“HB 1714 brings equity to those students currently excluded from the right extended to all the other students in the state's community and technical colleges, particularly youth reengagement students,” Goracke said. “Holding this credential can be essential to their ability to obtain a high skilled job and a better future.”
The Open Doors program works with students who left high school prior to graduate earning a diploma. Students can earn a GED®, Washington state diploma or an associate degree.
“Our reengagement students have already faced significant barriers to high school completion when they join our program — they have had negative experiences with education. Open Doors provides a fresh start in a new environment,” O’Brien said. “Our Open Doors students are completing the same requirements to earn degrees and should have equal opportunity to be awarded a diploma for that work."
Ford told committee members of the challenges she faced in high school and once she started the Open Doors program. Under current law, she would have to take additional classes in order to earn a high school diploma even after earning an associate degree.
“Because of this law, if I were to complete my associate degree before I was 21, I would have almost an entire year of classes to take in addition — and those are things like PE classes. And since I'm going for an Associate in Sciences, all of those things are actually taking me backwards in my education where I've already taken biochemistry classes. So I am here to ask your support on this bill,” Ford said.
The committee also heard testimony on HB 1715, which removes the ability of a K-12 school district to withhold a student’s grades or transcripts because of unpaid fines or fees. Entenman also serves as the prime sponsor of this bill.
“I understand that when a student has been accused and has been deemed to have done something wrong, there should be some sort of consequence, but I think withholding their transcript so that they can have that one episode in their life and move on from that is unfair,” she said. “I just like to have them have the opportunity to do what is right and to try to make better choices in the future. I think that this will allow that.”
“While this change would have a minor fiscal impact on school districts on paper, most of these fines and fees are rarely collected. However for students this change will open up great educational and future employment opportunities,” Goracke told the committee. Fines and fees disproportionally affect historically underrepresented students and those who are of a lower socioeconomic status.
Holley told the committee that most of the students she works with are not able to easily pay an unexpected cost like a fee or a fine.
“This fee or fine creates a barrier not only to starting easily in the High School 21+ program, but may also stall this person from coming back to school at all,” she said. “To be suddenly faced with the barrier of an unpaid fee or fine may be just the thing that stops a person in their tracks and keeps them from continuing their education."
In follow up questions, committee members expressed concern that forgiving fees and fines would remove the deterrent and consequences for a student’s action.
“I think the real focus of the bill is to make sure that students who maybe have a fine or fee from 20 years ago are actually able to access that transcript so they can quickly obtain a secondary credential, and then move on to post-secondary education or a career so that they would actually have the financial ability to with pay those fines and fees,” Goracke said.
Senators hold work session on health care education and hear Evergreen Pilot Promise and high school completion bills
Feb. 14 — Continuing its series on how higher education helps the state meet its workforce needs, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard from representatives from the health care field. Nate Humphrey, director of workforce education at the State Board, testified at the work session on behalf of the community and technical college system.
Humphrey provided senators with an overview of what the colleges are currently doing, ways the system is innovating and developing in the field, and how the college system’s operating budget request would help the state meet the demand for health care professionals.
“It's been said that every physician will need seven to ten technicians to support them in the delivery of care,” he said. “That is exactly where our state's community and technical colleges shine and provide the gateway for opportunity to many Washingtonians.”
Humphrey spoke about how the Job Skills Program (JSP), Customized Training Program and the Hospital Employee Education and Training Grant (HEET) help train employees for the workplace. Programs also help employers by ensuring their employees have up-to-date training.
Health care programs, Humphrey told senators, are among the most expensive for a college to provide to students. That’s because programs try to reproduce the work environment, so technology and equipment has to reflect what’s in use in the workplace. In addition, class sizes are often small because of limited lab space. As a result, students can be delayed in starting or completing programs.
Up for hearings at the Senate higher education committee were SB 5884 and SB 5891. SB 5884 would create the Evergreen Pilot Promise Program, which would provide scholarships equivalent to the cost of tuition and fees plus a stipend to students in pilot high schools.
Sen. David Frockt, the bill’s prime sponsor, explained the background of the bill and its development over the years.
“I always said at that time, the Washington Promise is kind of whatever we say it is: It's a commitment for us to find a way to make sure that we're increasing our college matriculation and meeting our goals as a state and also providing as much opportunity as we can to the young people of our state to attend college,” he said.
Ruben Flores, a policy associate for student services at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill.
“Your community and technical colleges support providing access to quality education for all students no matter their economic level,” he said. “We find that it's important that there are supports out there for students who fall between the student services gaps — whether it's financial aid to student services or a family contribution student service — and this bill goes a long way in supporting those students in that situation”
Last on the committee’s agenda for the day was SB 5891 which would mandate the State Board create the Washington Adult Diploma and Workforce Training Program with the purpose to help adults earn a high school diploma, increase their employability and develop career and technical skills. The State Board must also maintain a list of approved providers for the program. The companion to SB 5891, HB 1903, was heard in the House College and Workforce Development Committee on Wednesday.
With testimony similar to what he told the House committee, Troy Goracke, a policy associate for basic education for adults with the State Board, told senators that the bill would create a program already underway at the state’s community and technical colleges and third-party providers.
“Our colleges currently provide adults with the ability to earn a high school diploma while gaining employment in academic skills leading to credentials with meaningful in the workforce through I-BEST in conjunction with High School 21+,” he said. “This flexible programming offered through face-to-face and distance options is provided often at no cost to the student.”
The bill’s reporting requirements, Goracke added, are unnecessary under current state and federal law.
“The reporting milestones currently take place through state and federal requirements. The expansion of providers and creation of a system to track the milestones will require money and time,” he said.
Senate Ways and Means hears prison internet and Washington College Promise bills
The Senate Ways and Means Committee took up SSB 5433 and SSB 5393 at its hearing Thursday. SSB 5433 would allow inmates to use the internet for educational programs and it allow the Department of Corrections and community and technical colleges to offer associate or applied baccalaureate programs. SSB 5393, which was requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, would create the scholarship program in place of the State Need Grant, make it an entitlement for all eligible students, and make the maximum award the total cost of tuition and fees. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard both bills on Jan. 22 and passed them out of committee on Jan. 29.
“Secured internet is a critical need for our current students. Current vocational courses and certifications are no longer accessible by pencil and paper,” Pat Seibert-Love, a policy associate for corrections education at the State Board said. “Prior to release, students need to test for industry certifications and start applying for work. If they wait until they release they are unable to get going on these critical job skill certifications, they risk recidivating.”
Also testifying on behalf of the college system was Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College. Peninsula has corrections programs at Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Olympic Corrections Center with 715 students enrolled in the 2017-18 school year.
“Basic internet skills, as you know, are a basic skill today in today's workforce in the same way that math skills, writing skills, oral communication skills are necessary to be successful in the workplace. Internet skills today are equally important,” Robins said. “For us, frankly, access to the internet for our students in correctional facilities is an equity issue. We strive to provide the same sorts of services to all our students regardless of their location, and secured internet is an important part of that.”
Robins was also on hand to testify in favor of SSB 5393. He was joined by Eric Murray, president of Cascadia College, and Mustapha Samateh, an Edmonds Community College student and legislative intern for the State Board.
“We know at our college that student success and completion is about much more than what happens in the classroom,” Robins said. This school year, Peninsula awarded 424 students a State Need Grant, but had 243 students who qualified for the grant, but could not be awarded because of a lack of funding. “Fully funding the State Need Grant as the Washington Promise would be a significant step in addressing these barriers to student completion and success.”
Murray told senators that Cascadia’s student body is primarily middle class, so many students would not qualify for financial aid support. Many students work part-time or temporarily stop their education in order to save enough money to start again.
“Parts of the state are starting to fund promise programs as in Seattle. We need to do the same statewide if we expect the entire state to produce the educated students we need to fuel the economy,” he said. “The state is starving for employees in our state industries. You cannot expect to produce those employees without the kind of student support and commitment to higher education embodied in this bill.”
Samateh testified that he was grateful senators recognized the role community and technical colleges filled in the state’s higher education system. The program would allow students to prepare for current and future workforce needs.
“The Washington College Promise scholarship will effectively remove cost as a barrier to higher education for community and technical college students statewide who are facing prohibitive financial challenges,” he said. “It will ensure that promising and ambitious students have resources they need to focus on their studies and build a better future for their family and for themselves such as lowering debt rates for graduating students.”
House higher education committee hears emergency grant program and basic education provider bills
Feb. 13 — Representatives on the House College and Workforce Development Committee Wednesday heard a bill that would support students facing a financial emergency and would allow students using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits on campus. The committee also took testimony on a bill that would create the Washington Adult Diploma and Workforce Training Program. The program would assist adults as they earn a high school diploma, increase their employability, and develop career and technical skills.
Financial and food benefit support
HB 1893 would create a grant program for colleges to provide monetary assistance to students facing a financial emergency or related situation that would affect their ability to attend classes. Funds would be distributed by colleges with the program administered by the State Board. The bill also asks the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to request from the US Department of Agriculture a waiver so students can use the SNAP benefits on campus and ask that students who are eligible for the State Need Grant also be eligible for SNAP. Colleges currently cannot accept SNAP benefits at on-campus food retail establishments.
“Our goal is for [students] to remain in school, finish a program, go out into the world and contribute. I would hate for a student to drop out of school because of a one-time issue,” Rep. Debra Entenman, vice chair of the committee and prime sponsor of the bill, said. “I am hoping that if a student already qualifies for a benefit that they be able to use that benefit on a college campus, so we would need to ask for a waiver from the Department of Social and Health Services to allow that to happen.”
Erin Frasier, a policy associate for workforce education with the State Board, welcomed the additional support for students.
“Our colleges do strive to meet emergency needs right now, yet they do not have enough resources to meet current demands, and the little resources they do have are spread very thin and are quickly exhausted,” she said of college emergency funds.
Frasier also welcomed the request for a waiver so students could use their SNAP benefits, in the form of an EBT card, on campus.
“On average, 15,000 students at the community and technical colleges are receiving basic food assistance, and, although we do not know exact numbers, there are many more students that are food insecure or facing other emergency needs that impact their ability to stay in college and focus on their studies,” she said. “Therefore we appreciate the bill's focus on addressing student food insecurity and the effort to expand state approved employment training programs for individuals receiving food assistance."
Creating the Washington Adult Diploma and Workforce Training Program
HB 1903 would mandate the State Board create the Washington Adult Diploma and Workforce Training Program to help adults earn a high school diploma, increase their employability and develop career and technical skills. The State Board would maintain a list of approved providers for the program.
Rep. Jared Mead, a member of the committee and the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee he brought the bill forward because he wanted to help students over the age of 21 earn a high school diploma.
“Anyone over 21 who wants to go back and earn their diploma has to incur those costs on their own and personally I think that our state has an obligation to help these students as well are these adults as well,” he said. “This program goes beyond providing pathways for high school diplomas. It goes into including industry recognized credentials and employability certificates, as well, so it's that extra step that's necessary for those adults to then go into the workforce.”
Troy Goracke, a policy associate for basic education for adults with the State Board, testified with concerns, telling committee members that community and technical colleges and third-party providers already offer the training and education called for in the bill.
“Our colleges, currently using I-BEST in conjunction with High School 21+, provide adults with the ability to earn a high school diploma while gaining employment and academic skills leading to credentials with meaning in the workforce,” he said. “Since High School 21+ uses a competency based model, the acquisition of the high school diploma is accelerated and easily combined with the technical skills leading to employment. This saves students both time and money and is available now.”
Education funding expansion bill heard in House Appropriations
Feb. 13 — The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony on HB 1791, a bill that would broaden what funds in the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account (PSTAA) could be used for. The Legislature in 2015 created a regional transit authority in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, also known as ST3. The transit authority must pay an offset fee of 3.25 percent of total payments made by the transit authority by contractors. Collected funds go into the PSTAA account with the fee ending when the account reaches $518 million.
Funds in the PSTAA account must be distributed to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to educational services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12 and higher education. Funds are distributed based on the population of each county. HB 1791 expands “educational services” to include programs or facilities for youth who are low-income, homeless or in foster care, as well as other vulnerable populations.
Amy Morrison, president of Lake Washington Institute of Technology, testified in favor, saying the bill would allow colleges to raise public and private funding to supplement one-time PSTAA funding.
“The proposed college promise component of PSTAA is robust in its support of underserved youth, which will enable an unprecedented amount of scholarship funding as well as campus supports for students,” she said. “While PSTAA funds present an opportunity, to do so we realize that we cannot solely rely upon these funds. So we realize we will need to leverage these dollars and raise other private and public funds to move forward this PSTAA funding into future generations.”
Dual credit accreditation and student success bills heard in House higher education committee
Feb. 12 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee took up a bill that would require College in the High School programs to be accredited and a bill on student success and support. First on the agenda, HB 1734 would require colleges and universities offering dual enrollment programs, specifically College in the High School, to be nationally accredited by the 2027-28 academic year. Currently nationally accredited programs are the University of Washington’s UW in the High School, Eastern Washington University’s EWU in the High School, and Everett Community College’s College in the High School. The companion bill, SB 5706, was heard in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Feb. 7.
Rep. Mari Leavitt, the bill’s prime sponsor and vice chair of the committee, testified that she hoped the bill would increase access to college-level classes for all families, particularly low-income families, and ensure those classes are academically rigorous.
“It’s the right thing to do for our students,” she said.
Leavitt told the committee that technical amendment would be offered to make sure career and technical education (CTE) dual credit courses wouldn’t be affected by the bill.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, testified in favor.
“Students should not only have access to college-level credit, they should have access to college-level classes. Ensuring rigorous coursework through the standards is the best option we have for better preparing students,” he said.
Second on the agenda was HB 1735, which, as it affects the college system, would:
- require community and technical colleges implement Guided Pathways and a mandatory student success course that the State Board, in consultation with the Washington Student Achievement Council, must approve
- require the State Board to develop a plan for all community and technical colleges to offer behavioral health services
- require new student identification cards to include information on suicide hotlines, emergency numbers, and behavioral health counseling services beginning in the 2019-20 school year
Rep. Gerry Pollet, the bill’s prime sponsor and member of the committee, highlighted the addition of emergency contact information on the back of student identification cards. The addition, he said, was a simple change, but proven to be effective.
“Behavioral Health is an essential part of student success, and we can't ignore it,” he said.
Harris said the bill aligns with the college system’s budget request for Guided Pathways funding. Funding in the bill would increase student support services and redesign instruction for student success.
“With this legislation we anticipate an increase in student retention, entry and completion of certificates and degrees, as well as increases in transfers to 4-year universities,” he said.
Schiffner told representatives how Guided Pathways helps students meet their academic goals, part of which is a student success class. She hoped, however, that the bill would be amended so colleges would be able to adopt their own student success curriculum and not have to receive approval from the State Board.
“Many of our colleges have first-year success courses, or a variation, based on their own context,” she said. “The opportunity to build upon these existing courses in our system as the basis for this work would provide a strong foundation for this bill moving forward.”
Coming up next week
The Legislature faces its first cutoff date of the session Friday when bills in their originating house need to be voted out of their policy committee in order to continue in the legislative process. The deadline means committees will be busy in executive sessions taking votes on bills. Policy committees will also be hearing the last bills assigned to their committee. Up for the community and technical college system are bills on establishing a dual enrollment scholarship pilot program, removing restrictions on subsidized child care to improve student access and completion, and expanding career connected learning opportunities.