Fiscal committees ramp up work as session reaches first cutoff deadline
The 2022 session reached its first cutoff deadline Thursday when bills needed to be voted out of their policy committees to continue in the legislative process. House and Senate fiscal committees now take up the task of hearing bills' fiscal impacts ahead of Monday's fiscal committee cutoff deadline.
Gov. Jay Inslee attended Wednesday's State Board study session to learn more about the community and technical college system's legislative priorities. He heard from State Board Legislative Interns Melissa Littleton and Mirian Mencias about their experiences as students and interns. Carli Schiffner, deputy executive director for education at the State Board, spoke about the system's efforts to implement climate science into curriculum and increasing Career Launch programs that part of the governor-supported Career Connect Washington initiative.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee began the first of their marathon hearings at 9 a.m. and expect to meet until this evening. The committee is scheduled hear the community and technical college system's requested bill to add the estimated number of full-time students who will enroll in Basic Education for Adults programs to the state's caseload forecast. Also on the agenda are bills on expanding the Washington College Grant maximum award for apprenticeships and providing information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Check out next week's Legislative News for coverage of this hearing.
Trucking shortages, cybersecurity on House College work session agenda
Jan. 31 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee spent its hearing time on Monday in a work session learning more about trucking and supply chain workforce shortages and cybersecurity initiatives.
Trucking and supply chain workforce shortages
Sharing concerns with their Senate colleagues about interruptions in the supply chain, the House College and Workforce Development Committee held a work session on trucking and supply chain workforce shortages. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee held a similar work session at its hearing Jan. 27.
Kristi Grassman, director of the Construction Center of Excellence, Bruce Chattin, executive director of the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association, Carolyn McKinnon, 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, presented on behalf of the community and technical college system. They provided committee members an overview of industry needs and how the Centers of Excellence and community and technical colleges are helping meet those needs.
Presenting on behalf of the Center of Excellence for Global Trade and Supply Chain Management, Grassman told committee members about the supply chain and strategies to increase the supply of commercial drivers.
“One side effect of the pandemic is that for the first time people are thinking about and paying attention to the supply chain,” Grassman said. “In Washington state, the supply chain is important not only because it allows us to get our food and goods, but because it employs so many people and in jobs that pay a good family wage.”
Grassman reported that Washington state has 170,000 jobs in the global trade and supply chain sector.
Chattin, who also serves as a member of the Construction Center of Excellence’s advisory board, highlighted challenges he sees to recruiting people with commercial driver’s licenses and opportunities for growth. As an example, Chattin cited roadblocks in being able to earn a CDL for members of the military transitioning into a civilian role.
“We think we should formally explore industry partnerships with community [and technical] colleges, match up attributes of each, and identify sustainable and effective community college funding,” he said. “With JBLM, we need to create a working model with community colleges and the military industry — something that's predictable, easier to implement and something employers can easily tap into.”
McKinnon told the committee community and technical colleges have eight CDL programs.
“Our colleges are very committed to meeting the needs of industry, including this need for more commercial drivers,” she said.
High costs to students and to the colleges, McKinnon continued, prevents more people from enrolling in CDL programs and more colleges from offering them. The median cost to a student is $5,500, which includes tuition and fees covering items like fuel, drug testing and physicals. While some costs may be covered by grant funding like Worker Retraining funds, most programs are too short to be eligible for federal financial aid.
For colleges, the cost of purchasing trucks alone can be prohibitive.
“When you think about the cost of $65,000 for a used truck — $125,000 for a full tractor trailer rig that's ready for instruction — the cost of operating the programs adds up very quickly,” McKinnon said.
In addition to vehicle purchase, insurance and maintenance expenses, colleges face high costs for land for students to practice driving and to store the trucks.
According to Gruver, interest in pursuing a CDL in the areas served by the Community Colleges of Spokane remains high among prospective students and among businesses looking to hire. CCS has about 30 people on program waitlists.
“We have businesses and industry seeking to partner to recruit students who pass our training when it is an operation,” he said.
Among challenges he sees to training more people is recruiting instructors. Space limitations in the cab of a truck limits programs to four students per instructor.
“Talent is extremely hard to find right now because there’s such high demand for CDL Class A drivers in particular,” he said. “In Washington state, the instructor has to have two years of experience, so we can't just recruit instructors out of our graduating students, unfortunately. They have to have some road time.”
Transitioning from trucking and supply chain shortages, the House College and Workforce Development Committee held a work session on cybersecurity initiatives. Kicking off the work session were representatives of Whatcom Community College: Kathi Hiyane-Brown, president of the college, Corrinne Sande, principal investigator and director of Computer Sciences and Information Systems and the National Cybersecurity Training and Education Center (NCyTE), and Janice Walker, special projects director for Cybersecurity Grants with NCyTE.
The National Security Administration in 2011 and the National Science Foundation in 2013 recognized Whatcom Community College’s National Cybersecurity Training and Education Center as a Center of Excellence. In 2021, the National Science Foundation designated NCyTE as the national Advanced Technological Education Center for Cybersecurity Education. Hiyane-Brown traveled to the White House in August to participate in a summit on cybersecurity. She was one of three higher education representatives at the summit and the only one from the two-year sector.
“Whatcom Community College has been actively involved in workforce training and education opportunities locally and specifically in our curriculum and program of studies in the cybersecurity field since the early 2000s,” Hiyane-Brown said. “National attention to our program has sparked tremendous interest in our work not only among colleges and universities but also with K-12 schools.”
About 600,000 cybersecurity-related jobs are open nationwide, with about 13,500 of those in Washington state. Demand, Sande said, vastly exceeds the number of workers.
“We need more cybersecurity program graduates to secure national and local infrastructure. This is really a matter of national defense,” she said.
With 336 members, including 25 in Washington state, the center helps colleges and universities build their own cybersecurity programs.
“All of these goals lead toward the same goal, and that is to help colleges build their programs. Either create new programs or build their programs to better quality so that we will graduate more students that are able to go to work in the cybersecurity workforce,” Sande said.
Walker told the committee that one of Whatcom’s specialties is industrial control systems security, like those found in refineries and manufacturing operations.
“Those are the kinds of things that are so important to secure as we’ve seen attacks on our electrical grid throughout the nation,” she said.
Students can pursue a cybersecurity or related associate degree that they can use to start employment or transfer to a bachelor’s program at Western Washington University or continue at Whatcom.
“We are really encouraged by the growing support and interest in building a cybersecurity workforce, and it is our hope that the Legislature will see an investment in cybersecurity education as well worth its value in terms of preparing the future workforce,” Hiyane-Brown said.
House Appropriations hears financial aid, outreach bills
Jan. 31 — The House Appropriations Committee on Monday heard about the fiscal impacts of a bill that would expand Washington College Grant eligibility and one that would fund outreach and completion initiatives.
Washington College Grant expansion and bridge grant
SHB 1659 would expand Washington College Grant eligibility and award levels. As currently written, students at or below 55% of the state’s median family income are eligible for the maximum award. SHB 1659 would extend that to students at or below 70% of the state’s median family income. Additionally, the bill would allow students who receive the maximum award to be eligible for an annual bridge grant to cover higher education expenses beyond tuition and fees.
Washington is experiencing shortages in fields like nursing, behavioral health, construction and manufacturing, Rep. Vandana Slatter, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee.
“We need a future workforce and a strong economy, and we have a willing group of students who are ready to build that life in our future,” she said. “We would like to give them a bridge to cross that last small gap to economic security, realize the goals of our current investments and the chance to build a strong future.”
Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, told the committee that the Washington College Grant expansion and the bridge grants would benefit students across the state by removing barriers preventing them from completing their programs.
“The bridge grant would allow students the ability to have additional funding to help meet their basic needs as they are working towards educational goals,” she said.
Mirian Mencias, one of the State Board’s legislative interns for the 2022 session and student at Highline College, testified that the expansion would help her as a first-generation student from an underrepresented population.
“I want to thank you on behalf of all the students that you do this for, for seeing us, for meeting us at least halfway,” she said.
Melissa Littleton, also a State Board legislative intern and the student body president of Tacoma Community College, told the committee that the expansion would have helped her. She returned to college using Worker Retraining funds, but funding would not continue as she pursued a Bachelor of Applied Science degree.
“Expanding the Washington College Grant would increase my funding one and a half times, which would enable me to attend with no tuition costs throughout the year, and I would only have the responsibility of books,” she said. “This is true for me and so many and other individuals.”
Also testifying in favor were Brianne Sanchez, director of student financial services at North Seattle College, and Teresa Robinson-Duane, director of student financial aid at Green River College. Both spoke about how the expansion would help hundreds of students at their colleges. About 2,500 students at North Seattle College and 1,500 students at Green River College could benefit from the bridge grant.
“By modifying the income eligibility threshold for the Washington College Grant, it will have a direct positive impact on the educational attainment and persistence of our low-income students by providing much needed financial support while enrolled in college,” Sanchez said.
The bridge grant recognizes the need for financial support beyond what’s provided for tuition, according to Robinson-Duane.
“The true cost of attendance which includes housing, child care and food, are often the factors that force the student to delay or discontinue their education,” she said.
Outreach and completion initiatives
Representatives also heard testimony on SHB 1835, which, if passed, would:
- require the Washington Student Achievement Council to advertise the Washington College Grant
- establish the FAFSA and WASFA Outreach and Completion Initiative between colleges and universities and high schools
- establish grant programs for public libraries and community based organizations to conduct community outreach to increase FAFSA and WASFA completion rates
- determine a student’s eligibility for the Washington College Grant based on whether they’re receiving benefits from a public assistance program
- require higher education institutions to inform people who receive public assistance of their eligibility to receive the Washington College Grant, such as through a mailing
“Washington state ranks 49th out of the 50 states in FAFSA financial aid form completion rates. That’s horrifying,” Rep. Drew Hansen, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This has been the case forever. If we want to fix this, we got to kind of run it like a campaign — we have to run some ads.”
Hansen also spoke about the importance of community partnerships to help students complete FAFSA and WASFA forms.
“The high school program within the bill is modeled upon a proven successful program at the Seattle Colleges District that has done much to improve the FAFSA completion rate for high school students, Choi Halladay, deputy executive director of business operations at the State Board, said. “It provides multiple other modes of outreach for targeting a broad array of citizens, and it provides synergy to an SBCTC proposal in the governor's budget for outreach programs that focus on non-high school populations.”
Private university capital project matching grant program bill heard in House Capital Budget Committee
Feb. 1 — The House Capital Budget Committee at its hearing Tuesday took up a bill that would provide matching grants to the state’s private non-profit universities for their capital projects. HB 2055 would require the universities to match the grant to at least 100%.
“As we all know, these are usually small institutions with smaller class sizes, smaller graduate numbers, usually very much smaller budgets, but they too have needs for facilities for kids and students to be utilizing to further their education,” Rep. Mike Steele, the bill’s prime sponsor and ranking minority member of the committee, said.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, testified on behalf of the community and technical college system, testified expressing concerns with the bill.
“Given that our tuition is set by you, the Legislature, unlike the independent colleges, we rely more heavily on the capital budget to take care of the taxpayer-owned properties where we serve almost 300,000 students on their pathways to family-wage careers,” he said.
Anti-hazing bill heard in House Appropriations
Feb. 1 — At its hearing Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee took up SHB 1751, the bill that would require colleges and universities to provide educational programs on hazing and report findings of hazing investigations.
“We are in full support of this bill, and we are grateful for the prime sponsor’s collaborative approach to working with us on it. Please support this bill,” Joe Holliday, the State Board’s director of student services, said.
Dual credit subsidy bill heard in House Appropriations
Feb. 3 — The bill that would reduce College in the High School and Running Start costs was a topic of Thursday’s House Appropriations Committee’s hearing. SHB 1760 would subsidize the cost of courses for low-income students in College in the High School courses and subsidize fee waivers for low-income students in Running Start. The bill 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.
Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K12 alignment, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Increased funding to offset out-of-pocket expenses that students incur when participating in College in the High School and Running Start programs will increase access to these dual credit programs resulting in more college credit accrual during high school saving Washington students and families time and money in their journey toward credential and degree attainment,” she said.
Senate Ways and Means hears corrections program bill
Feb. 3 — A bill that would provide early release time for people who complete certain programs while in prison was heard during Thursday’s Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing. SSB 5692 would first require the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to evaluate the effectiveness of Department of Corrections programs, then, second, require the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission to develop a formula for awarding earned early release time to people incarcerated based on the WSIPP evaluation.
Patricia Seibert-Love, policy associate for corrections education at the State Board, thanked the committee for its support for corrections education. She voiced concerns that postsecondary education programs were not included as part of the WSIPP program evaluation. She also said limited program availability in prisons means not everyone who wants to participate in a program has the opportunity to do so.
“Just with regard to education, there are a lot of people who would want to participate, but there is a limited amount of space and availability for that to happen, and that's true for any training program in a correctional environment,” she said. “The accessibility and equitable opportunities for everybody at every classification level, every facility would be something that we would like to consider.”
Coming up next week
House and Senate fiscal committees will work over the weekend to hear and vote on bills before Monday's fiscal committee cutoff deadline. The full House and Senate will spend the remainder of the week debating and voting on bills that made it past the cutoff deadlines.