Dual credit, retail training bills heard, system-request bill passes policy committee
Retail careers and dual credit bills were topics of hearings while committees also spent time discussing amendments and voting on bills. The community and technical college system's-requested bill to add projected Basic Education for Adults enrollments to the state's Caseload Forecast Council unanimously passed out of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Tuesday. It now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for its consideration.
Retail education and training bill heard in House College and Workforce Development Committee
Jan. 24 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Monday took up HB 2019, a bill that would increase educational and training opportunities for retail careers. If passed, the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board would work with stakeholders and make recommendations to develop and increase courses, educational pathways, credentials and training for people working in retail.
“This helps incentivize and some people get energized, and, really frankly, in a passion that they know, they have a career path all the way up, as far as they want to go in the retail industry,” Rep. Matt Boehnke, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
Carolyn McKinnon, a policy associate for workforce education at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill.
“Our colleges provide industry-specific education and training solutions for many, if not all, the industries that drive Washington's economy, including retail,” she said.
The State Board, she continued, supports working with the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board to help develop a skilled workforce “not only for the retail trade industry, but for the other industries that may find great job candidates from retail trade.”
The committee passed an amended version of the bill at its hearing Thursday.
Bill reducing dual credit costs, expanding options heard in House Education Committee
Jan. 25 — The House Education Committee on Tuesday heard a bill aimed at reducing College in the High School and Running Start costs. For College in the High School, it would subsidize the cost of courses for low-income students. For Running Start, it would subsidize fee waivers for low-income students. If passed, HB 1760 would also make permanent the Running Start Summer School Pilot Program and would require schools with students grades 9 through 12 to notify students and their parents or guardians about all dual credit programs.
“Even though they’re K-12 programs, there are fees and tuition associated with them that really are a burden for working families in our community and across our state,” Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor said. “That means that lower-income families aren’t able to access these programs — many of them don’t know about the programs — and this bill helps reduce those costs, help close equity gaps, and, in the end, I think will have a significant boost for our state’s economy.”
Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K12 alignment, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Our [community and technical colleges] provide financial assistance to almost a third of our dual credit population, yet even with this assistance, we acknowledge that certain financial barriers continue to prevent our BIPOC students and students in financial need from accessing these programs,” she said. “SBCTC supports House Bill 1760’s intent to increase funding for more students to access these dual credit programs in addition to the Running Start summer expansion.”
Mackenzie Scott, a Running Start student at Wenatchee Valley College, told the committee about challenges she and others face with program affordability.
“It's very off-putting to a lot of families, I know, at least in my district, where they have to be able to pay for books as well as your quarter fees, and that makes it very hard for other families to be able to participate in the program,” she said. “A lot of students who actually want to participate are unable to due to financial situations, even with all the support that the colleges give with financial [aid]. It's very difficult sometimes.”
Worry about finances makes it difficult for students to focus on schoolwork, Scott continued.
Anne Molenda, director K-12 partnerships at South Puget Sound Community College, also spoke in favor of the bill. South Puget Sound — along with Skagit Valley College, Wenatchee Valley College and Yakima Valley College — is one of the pilot colleges selected for the Running Start Summer School program. Molenda called South Puget Sounds's summer program a success, with a 93% pass rate and 94% of students enrolling for fall quarter.
She also expressed her support of the bill’s financial support. Twenty percent of South Puget Sound’s Running Start students are considered low income.
“House Bill 1760 helps expand student eligibility, making sure that low-income students are empowered to make decisions about their education based on their career aspirations instead of making sacrifices based on what they can afford,” she said.
Senate higher education committee holds work session on commercial driver shortages
Jan. 27 — With supply chain interruptions top of mind for for consumers and businesses, members of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development held a work session Thursday on shortages of people with commercial driver’s licenses and training opportunities. Carolyn McKinnon, a policy associate for workforce education at the State Board, and Nolan Gruver, executive director for corporate training and continuing education at the Community Colleges of Spokane, provided committee members with an overview of CDL programs at community and technical colleges, challenges facing students and program operation, and ideas to help more students earn their licenses.
“Our colleges are very committed to meeting the needs of industry including the need for more commercial drivers,” McKinnon said.
Community and technical colleges offer eight CDL programs ranging in length from less than one quarter to three quarters. Not all programs qualify for students to use financial aid, creating a barrier for some students who want to participate. Student costs range from $3,500 to $7,500 with the median cost at $5,500. For colleges, CDL programs are among the most expensive to operate with purchase and operation of vehicles, space requirements for parking and driving, and instructor recruitment and retention.
“As we’re talking, I want you to think about two sides of the same coin: when we think about our ability to successfully offer commercial driving programs and produce more drivers for the road, think about both the cost of attendance for students but also the cost of operating training programs at your public community and technical colleges,” McKinnon said.
For the Community Colleges of Spokane, there’s interest among students and employers. The CCS program maintains a wait list for students and businesses looking to hire students who pass the program.
“We have requests from rural communities, for instance up in Colville as well as Whitman County, to see if we could bring CDL to their regions or county because demand is so high all over Eastern Washington, the state, and nation,” Gruver said.
McKinnon and Gruver provided senators ideas to help students and colleges interested in providing more CDL training, discussing:
- options to contract for instruction or equipment
- shared program resources across multiple colleges
- incorporate non-FAFSA student aid and instructional support into program funding
- equipment and facility support
- employer-sponsored customized training
State Board members testify before Senate higher education committee
Seven members of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges testified this week before the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee as part of their appointment confirmation process.
"As a product of our higher education system myself, I’m sitting here as president of an engineering consulting firm and a professional civil engineer because of that access and ability to be in our system. And now to serve as a board member for the community and technical colleges is beyond any dream that I ever had and to be able to make a difference for our citizens and our students to provide access to our programs that I know are life changing is incredibly rewarding," Donner said.
Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney
"It offers such an opportunity for students who cannot really reach their educational dream without starting with being able to afford it, being able to find something in a career that they want to do, and that’s where the community [and technical] college is so beautiful. It really is there to serve all students at all levels. I just really think that it’s something that is needed to create a workforce that we need now," Gutierrez Kenney said.
"That’s where I focus a lot of my energy: How can we ensure that young people and others who come through our system that once they complete their program can have a relationship with business and find good jobs and good careers and good paying jobs?" Hogans said.
Chelsea Mason Placek
"I think in all of the places I've served, I've seen the value of the community and technical college system in supporting workers at all levels of education and experience grow into what they want in their careers. [Colleges also] support industry in so many different ways. The system is so nimble in that being able to accommodate what employers need while supporting workers in their growth and their careers. I'm really honored to be able to serve the system and support the system." Mason Placek said.
"It has been a privilege to serve on the board because I believe our community and technical colleges provide such crucial public services. … We provide these students with skills and credentials that for many will demonstrably change the financial trajectories of their families. And our students provide local employers with a skilled workforce which ultimately helps our communities thrive," Reich said.
"I’m passionate about higher education, particularly community [and technical] colleges because those are the colleges that are there for everyone regardless of racial, economic background, zip code, immigrant status, etcetera. I know that my family — I’m an immigrant, first-generation college student — has benefited from that," Valdez said.
"I have seen and I always knew that the community and technical colleges are the economic engines of our society in Washington state. Not only that, they give chances to people that were economically deprived or just out of the mainstream to advance to a better time, a better life," Whang said.
Coming up next week
The 2022 session reaches its first cutoff deadline Thursday, when House and Senate policy committees will need to have voted bills out of those committees for them to continue in the legislative process.
Up for hearings next week are bills on financial aid, outreach and completion, and hazing. The House College and Workforce Development Committee will also hold a work session on trucking and supply chain workforce shortages, echoing this week's Senate work session, and on cybersecurity initiatives.