Session expected to end Sunday as budget writers announce a tentative deal
Democrats in the Legislature announced Thursday they have a tentative deal on an operating budget for the biennium. House and Senate budget writers expect to release the plan on Saturday, one day before Sine Die, the scheduled end of the legislative session.
On Monday, college system representatives were on the hill testifying before the House Appropriations Committee on the Workforce Education Investment Act, a proposal that would fund higher education and financial aid programs.
TVW's Inside Olympia featured Pierce College Chancellor Michele Johnson Thursday discussing how colleges are preparing students for the workforce as the majority of future jobs will require education beyond high school. Also interviewed were Reps. Debra Entenman and Luanne Van Werven. Entenman is vice chair of the House College and Workforce Development Committee and Van Werven is ranking minority member of that committee.
House Appropriations Committee hears Workforce Education Investment Act
April 22 — The House Appropriations Committee took up the Workforce Education Investment Act at its hearing Monday. SHB 2158, which was passed by the House Finance committee April 19, would:
- establish the Washington College Grant Program, which would replace the State Need Grant
- establish the Washington Student Loan Program
- establish the Career Connected Learning cross-agency work group to carry out and expand career connected learning opportunities
- change the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to allow cities, counties, tribes and other organizations to contribute funding to the program
- change the Working Connections Child Care program so recipients do not have to meet work requirements to receive benefits
For the community and technical college system, the bill would finance:
- full funding for Guided Pathways at all 34 colleges in the second year of the biennium and beyond
- $3 million for Career Launch Enrollments
- funding for nursing faculty salary increases
- funding in the second year of the biennium for high-demand faculty salary increases
John Mosby, president of Highline College, Julie Moreno, a student at South Puget Sound Community College, Tim Stokes, president of South Puget Sound Community College, and Suzanne Johnson, president of Green River College, testified on behalf of the community and technical college system in favor of SHB 2158.
"As president of one of the most racially and economically diverse colleges in the nation, I see firsthand our students scrape together everything to have to pursue their dreams of a higher education and a better life,” Mosby said. “The Washington College Grant will ensure every qualified Washingtonian can achieve their dream of a college education regardless of their income. Students also be like less likely to take on oppressive student loans that will weigh them down in the future. The Washington College Grant will make a huge change in the trajectory of our students' lives and make our economy stronger.”
Moreno explained how the State Need Grant, which would become the Washington College Grant if the bill passes, helped her pursue her education. A 4.0 student, Moreno expects to earn an associate degree in Paralegal Studies this fall. She’s a mother of four and her husband is currently stationed in Korea. To gain work experience, Moreno interns in the public defenders’ office and holds a work-study position with the South Puget Sound food pantry.
“The Washington State Need Grant pays for my gas to get to class, my lunch and dinner when I am on campus for ten hours or more a day,” she said. “If I didn't have the grants, I would need a second job to cover these expenses, and I do not have the time for a second job. I don't believe I would be a student without the Washington State Need Grant.”
In addition, Moreno said, her son decided to attend the University of Washington over two out-of-state colleges because the State Need Grant is available to him.
Testifying on Guided Pathways, Stokes told committee members how the initiative helped South Puget Sound students. Guided Pathways simplifies the course selection process for students, so they can graduate with few or no credits that cannot be applied to their degree, saving them time and money.
“At South Puget Sound Community College, we've been piloting the pathways project through a grant through College Spark. It's really increased our student success. Our low socioeconomic student success has increased by 9 percent, our underrepresented student success has increased by 13 percent, and, most importantly, their completion rates have increased by 12 percent,” he said. “With the Workforce Education Investment Act, you can bring this successful approach to every community and technical college across the state.”
Speaking last, Johnson testified in favor of the faculty compensation pieces of the Workforce Education Investment Act. Increasing faculty compensation is the community and technical college system’s top priority for the 2019 legislative session. A 2018 study completed by the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University showed community and technical college faculty are paid 12 percent less than faculty in comparable states. The result, Johnson said, is that faculty leave colleges to take higher paying jobs in K-12 schools or private industry.
"Washington state has been in the top 10 states in economic growth and opportunity since 2012 to present time, but it sits at 40 out of 50 in terms of high school graduation and college-going behavior. We are in a paradox. We have some of the greatest opportunities, but we seem to be failing in producing eligible Washingtonians to take advantage of those opportunities,” she said. “With your investment, we can keep excellent faculty in our classrooms to deliver the skills and knowledge that our students need to start their careers and pursue further education at university levels.”
Trustees confirmed by Senate
The following trustees were confirmed by the Senate this week, prior to noon Friday.
- Flora Lucatero, Skagit Valley College, confirmed April 22
- Patrick Baldoz, Yakima Valley College, confirmed April 22
- Alice Dietz, Lower Columbia College, confirmed April 23
- Steven Drew, South Puget Sound Community College, confirmed April 23
- Douglass Jackson, Shoreline Community College, confirmed April 25