College system-requested bill heard as session concludes second week
Committees entered their second week of hearings this week, with the community and technical college system's requested bill on adding projected Basic Education for Adults enrollments to the state's caseload forecast the subject of a hearing Tuesday. Committees also heard bills on reducing dual credit costs, creating a trust fund eligible people may use for college and apprenticeship costs, and expanding the Mental Health Counseling and Services Pilot Program.
Senate early learning committee hears dual credit cost reduction bill
Jan. 17 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard a bill Monday that would reduce the costs of College in the High School and Running Start for students. If funded, SB 5719 would create a grant program, run by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to cover up to $35 per credit hour of the credit tuition fee for College in the High School programs. It would also eliminate the requirement for Running Start students to pay mandatory college and university fees. This would only take effect if the Legislature dedicates funding for that purpose.
“The state is going to make sure that the higher ed institutions are made whole,” Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor and member of the committee, said. “The end goal is the idea that if you're a high school student in the State of Washington, you shouldn’t have to pay to be in school.”
Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K12 alignment, spoke in support of the bill.
“Currently, Washington’s community and technical colleges provide financial assistance to almost a third of our dual credit population, yet even with this assistance, the State Board acknowledges that certain financial barriers continue to prevent BIPOC students and students in financial need from accessing these programs,” she said.
Community and technical colleges served nearly 32,000 students in Running Start and almost 6,500 students in College in the High School programs during the 2020-21 school year.
Trust fund program proposal heard in House committee
Jan. 18 — Creating the Washington Future Fund Trust Fund was a subject of Tuesday’s House Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee hearing. Submitted at the request of State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, HB 1861 would provide money in a savings and investment account for people born into families that are low income. The money could be used for higher education, buying a home or starting a business if the person meets eligibility requirements at the time they make the claim. The Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee heard the Senate's version of the bill last week.
“This is a concept that comes to you as an effort to break the cycle of generational poverty,” Rep. Monica Stonier, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
Choi Halladay, deputy executive director for business operations for the State Board, spoke in favor, testifying that earning a college-level degree or certificate is key to career and financial stability.
“Our community and technical colleges strive for affordability and have traditionally been the higher education institutions most accessible to low-income and historically underserved students,” he said. “But even the relatively low tuition and fees at the [community and technical college] system is a barrier to many, and long-term solutions like the Future Fund would be helpful for many of our future students.”
System-requested bill on Basic Education enrollment forecasts heard in Senate higher education committee
Jan. 18 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Tuesday took up the community and technical college system’s requested bill that would add the estimated number of full-time students who will enroll in Basic Education for Adults programs to the state's caseload forecast. SB 5771 would help colleges plan for fluctuations in anticipated demand in these programs.
Sen. Jeff Holy, the bill’s prime sponsor and ranking minority member of the committee, told the committee the bill would help the state better meet its educational attainment goal of everyone aged 25 to 44 earning a high school diploma or equivalent by 2023.
“That’s what this bill accomplishes: it assigns the Caseload Forecast Council to figure out the people out there that are in that age group and don’t have the credentials that are necessary, and, at the same time, determine if anybody's interested who has the intent to come back and attempt to accomplish those things,” he said.
Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were Troy Goracke, a policy associate for Basic Education for Adults at the State Board, Karen Lee, associate dean of Basic Education for Adults at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Michael Lee, vice president of instruction at Columbia Basin College, and Erin Holloway, director for transitional studies operations at Columbia Basin College. All spoke about how the Caseload Forecast Council’s estimate would allow colleges to plan.
“These annual counts will assist the community and technical colleges to plan effective outreach and recruitment and deploy needed resources to better instruct and support basic education students and meet the workforce’s needs,” Goracke said.
Lee, the associate dean at Lake Washington, told committee members that some high school students had dropped out because of COVID-19-exacerbated mental health, the move to online learning, and inequities in access to technology and digital literacy. Students of color, she said, saw a disproportionally greater impact.
“With access to information regarding annual estimates and of need and enrollment about high school, programs, like the one at Lake Washington, can better plan for such things such as a potential increase in enrollments, providing enough courses that meet the needs of the students to earn their diploma,” she said. “In addition, the information can also help us determine where our marketing efforts should be focused on so that the community that we serve knows about the opportunity to earn their diploma and walk alongside students to navigate the college system and hopefully go on to postsecondary education.”
Lee, the vice president at Columbia Basin College, testified that the bill would strengthen students’ social and economic mobility.
“For many of our students completing a high school credential is the first step towards social mobility. Often students who start college in a Basic Education for Adults program transition to a postsecondary certificate or degree,” he said. “This supports local workforce needs, as well as changes the lives of our students and their families. The passage of Senate Bill 5771 will allow community and technical colleges to better predict and meet the needs of Washingtonians who lack a high school credential.”
Testifying last, Holloway stressed that the forecast would not only provide information to help colleges plan and support students, but it also recognizes the value the population would bring to the state's workforce.
“As the bill states, community colleges are an open door for all. I'm lucky enough to witness people entering these doors every single day, many of whom would not have found the pathway to a postsecondary credential without the access and support provided by Basic Education for Adult programs,” she said.
Career and College Pathways Innovation Challenge Program
The committee also took up SB 5789, a bill that would create a program that would award grants to local and regional partnerships that help meet the state’s educational attainment goals.
“Senate Bill 5789 creates the College and Career Pathways Challenge Program, recognizing that some of these incredible community based organizations have some of the best tools to help opportunity youth and opportunity students follow their higher education pathway.” Sen. Emily Randall, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, said.
Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, told the committee that the program would support outreach efforts aimed at students of color, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and foster and homeless youth.
“We believe that this could enhance partnerships between our campuses and other organizations with targeted outreach and support for students in their enrollment journey and their financial aid application process,” she said. “To meet our state’s educational obtainment goals, the Washington Career and College Pathways Innovation Challenge could provide the necessary means to reinforce some of the wonderful existing partnerships and cultivate new collaborative efforts to support our students accessing and completing their post-secondary pathways.”
Equity, diversity task force, mental health pilot expansion, promoting caregiving professions on House college committee agenda
Jan. 19 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Wednesday took up a bill that would establish a task force on improving equity and diversity at community and technical colleges. HB 1840 would also double the size of the Mental Health Counseling and Services Pilot Program, established under E2SSB 5194, passed in 2021, from four to eight colleges and would extend the program’s expiration by a year.
“What I truly believe is that when we make an equitable system for all students, all, literally all students benefit from this,” Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “When you make a campus accommodate people from all different disabilities and abilities, you make the campus much better, so this is really to make sure that everyone has equitable access.”
“As you know, our colleges have displayed a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts over the years,” Nguyen said. “We fully support the expansion of the mental health counseling pilots.”
Nguyen asked the committee to consider how the proposed task force would integrate with similar efforts already underway.
McMullin, who heads up the mental health counseling and services pilot at the State Board, told the committee the demand for the program is high.
“The need for funding to expand services was demonstrated by the submission of 25 strong proposals from our colleges to be selected as one of the four pilot programs,” she said. “The selected pilot schools have already increased their professional counseling staff and are collecting data to measure the effectiveness of strategies they employ.”
Caregiving professions promotion
Also up for a hearing before the College and Workforce Development Committee was HB 1872, a bill which would establish the Care Worker Center under the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. Initially focusing on child care, long-term care and personal care attendants for people with disabilities, the center would elevate the care worker sector, increase retention and recruitment into these professions, and promote their value and employment options.
“We have desperate employment shortages in some key areas: Long-term care — which I don't think I have to say more about the importance of having workers in long-term care — child care, and then in the direct service to people with disabilities,” Rep. Tana Senn, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “We really want to make sure we are recruiting people to go into the pipeline, to get education and training, to serve in these professions, and that they feel that they're supported.”
Anna Nikolaeva, a policy associate for workforce education at the State Board, spoke in favor of the bill’s passage.
“We agree with the bill’s intent to elevate caregiving professions, promote their value and increase retention and recruitment,” she said.
Coming up next week
With time running out before the session's first cutoff deadline Feb. 3, committees will start turning their focus from hearings to voting on bill and amendments. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee is scheduled at its hearing Tuesday to vote on the college system's requested bill that would add projected Basic Education for Adults enrollments to the state's caseload forecast. Bills on apprenticeships, the equity and diversity task force and mental health counseling pilot program expansion, and the Washington Future Fund Trust Program are also scheduled for committee votes next week.