Committees continue work hearing corrections education, trust fund bills, work sessions on college system and apprenticeships
House and Senate committees continued this week hearing bills and holding work sessions to learn more about topics relevant to their work. Up for public testimony was a bill that would create a trust fund for people from low-income backgrounds and two bills affecting corrections education. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee also heard from State Board Executive Director Paul Francis with an overview of the community and technical college system.
Moving out of committees were SB 5048, the bill that would allow high school 10th, 11th, and 12th graders to enroll and register in College in the High School classes at no cost, and HB 1156, the bill that would extend eligibility of the Washington College Grant from five years to six years of a student’s program, the same length as Pell Grant eligibility.
Trust fund proposal heard in House and Senate committees
Creating a state fund that would serve as a savings and investment account for people born into families that are low income was the subject of House and Senate hearings this week. If passed, the Washington Future Fund Trust Fund, HB 1094 and SB 5125, would allow qualified people could use money for higher education, buying a home or starting a business if the person meets eligibility requirements at the time they make the claim. The bills were requested by State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti.
“I do think that we are all unified in wanting to make sure that our young people really have an opportunity to thrive no matter what family that they're born into,” Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, the Senate bill’s prime sponsor told members of the Senate Human Services Committee on Monday. “I would present to you that this is really that thoughtful, intentional approach to make sure that every kid — every kid — has a chance at asset building, that has a chance to close the gap between where they started and where they want to go, that this gives them an opportunity to hope.”
Arlen Harris, the State Board’s legislative director, testified in favor of both the House and Senate bills.
“[Being] open access that we are, and [even] with the [Washington] College Grant sometimes, money is finite for students accessing and getting through and having pathways to family wage jobs,” he said.
Speaking before the House Human Services Committee at its Wednesday hearing, Shannon Cosgrove, a State Board legislative intern and Columbia Basin College student, told members how legislative investments helped her, and how the Washington Future Fund would help others.
“These ‘baby bonds’ would provide opportunities for many of my fellow Washingtonians to achieve success and provide for their own families, not only as investment in the next generation, it is also an investment in the generations to come after that,” she said. “Creating this program would be a step in ending the cycle of poverty that is hindering the livelihoods of many of my fellow Washingtonians.”
College role in apprenticeships subject of House committee work session
Jan. 17 — Members of the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee on Tuesday held a work session on apprenticeships. Genevieve Howard, a workforce education policy associate who covers apprenticeships, gave committee members a brief overview of the role the college system plays in apprenticeships.
Nineteen community and technical colleges provide related supplemental instruction, the companion to an apprentice’s 2,000 hours of required on-the-job training, in 156 programs. Colleges served 12,102 apprentices in the 2021-22 school year. The colleges with the largest enrollment in the 2021-22 school year were South Seattle College with 3,717 apprentices, followed by Spokane Community College with 1,998, Bates Technical College with 1,740, and Renton Technical College with 1,716.
Many colleges, Howard said, offered one or two programs, making apprenticeship a small part of those colleges’ offerings, but called it a very important partnership.
“Enrollment trends tend to be aligned with the business cycle, so when business is good and the economy is strong, you see a growth of apprenticeships,” Howard said.
Apprentices take three to five credits per quarter, with 78% of programs leading to a college credential.
“Students really view themselves as a worker first and as a student second,” she said.
Half of instruction is offered off campus, while 29% is offered on campus, 11% a mix of on and off campus, and about 1% offered online.
“It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all training modality,” Howard said.
The college system continues to work to improve apprenticeship programs and apprentices’ experiences. Howard highlighted goals, including consistency of student support and messaging to internal and external partners about the colleges’ role within apprenticeship and how to grow it to serve more students, especially those who traditionally do not participate in programs. Howard cited the Multi-Occupational Trades associate degree as one way students can show skills learned through Related Supplemental Instruction.
“There has been a lot of work and a lot of interest in increasing the connection between apprenticeship and prior learning and understanding how to capture the experience that apprentices garner through that on-the-job training,” Howard said.
House higher education committee hears overview of college system
Jan. 18 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee held a work session Wednesday to hear overviews of the state’s community and technical college system, public four-year universities and private four-year universities. Paul Francis, the State Board’s executive director, spoke on behalf of the community and technical college system.
“We serve everybody. We are open access, regardless of where you are in your life and your career. We are here for you, and we're very proud of that. As we like to say, we are the democracy of higher education,” he said.
Francis provided a high-level look at the system, covering topics like governance, tuition, demographics, and mission areas. Throughout the presentation, he provided context for committee members about the student experience.
“We see a lot of people in the community and technical college system who are maybe coming back to reskill, maybe they've been laid off, or they want to move up in their career, or perhaps they don't have any post-secondary education whatsoever, and they’re saying, OK maybe I want to go and get a credential, I’m going to start at a community or technical college,” he said.
Speaking about the $4,458 annual tuition for a full-time lower-level student, Francis thanked legislators for investments in student support like the Washington College Grant.
“We are immensely grateful to you for the support that you provide in terms of financial aid, particularly the Washington College Grant, because that may not seem like a high number but to a lot of community and technical college students, $4,400 is a ton of money just for tuition, not including everything else, so we're very cognizant of what that number means for students,” he said.
Francis highlighted nationally recognized programs undertaken by the college system, particularly Guided Pathways, bachelor’s degrees, I-BEST, open educational resources and Running Start.
“Washington was the first state in the country to provide state funding for Guided Pathways. I want to thank Rep. Hansen who really pushed in that area,” he said. “We use an equity focus with respect to it, as well, because we know that it has tremendous impacts for our students.”
Francis ended his presentation telling members about areas on which the college system continues to focus, including stabilizing enrollment, partnerships with the K-12 system, better supporting current college students and students looking to return to college, and strengthening partnerships with areas like business and industry, labor, tribes, communities of color, and community-based organizations.
Senate Human Services Committee hears bills with corrections education impact
Jan. 19 — The Senate Human Services Committee at its hearing Thursday took up two bills that would affect corrections education. The first, SB 5025, would require the Department of Corrections to replace its Offender Management Network Information (OMNI) system. The computer system, custom developed for the state starting in 1998 and implemented 2003 to 2008, covers 17 areas including sentence calculation, caseload management, health care, release and discharge, and community supervision.
“We are not keeping up with the times anymore where we're at,” Sen. Perry Dozier, the bill’s prime sponsor said.
“It's never too soon to start talking about how OMNI is used; how it functions in a way that supports our educational efforts because everything we do in education is about making smooth transitions for people inside and on the outside so that we can have the best opportunity for healthy, safe communities and an impact on recidivism,” Seibert-Love said.
Al-Zubaidy, who worked as a corrections education navigator and education director at Larch Corrections Center before coming to the State Board, explained the limitations of the OMNI system to support education programs.
“As partners with the Department of Corrections, we support a more efficient and operational electronic management system that would allow for us to collaborate in supporting individuals transitioning to the community without potential setbacks associated with outdated data technology,” she said.
Also up for a hearing was SB 5134, a bill which would increase the money individuals receive upon release from $40 to a minimum of $300, adjusted annually for inflation. It would also require the Department of Corrections to develop an individual discharge plan and provide reentry services for a specified time before an individual leaves a correctional facility.
“We have to consider, and we have to think about what it is we're doing, and how we can increase access to those kinds of supported services and assistance for successful reentry,” Sen. Claire Wilson, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, said. “[SB] 5134 seeks to ensure that anyone that's leaving correctional institutions has access to both the tools and the services they need, and also deserve, for successful reentry.”
“For us reentry and the ability to have the funds is critical,” Seibert-Love said.
Al-Zubaidy emphasized to the committee the importance of individual discharge plans, asking senators to consider an amendment to the bill to include an educational needs assessment as part of the plan.
“Successful reentry requires a holistic approach to an individual's needs, including education, treatment, and behavioral health services,” she said. “This would support students in a seamless transition to education and career opportunities upon their release.”
Coming up next week
Hearings continue next week with bills on dual credit, financial aid, building energy systems and dual language education scheduled for hearings. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee is also planning a work session at its Wednesday hearing on student basic needs.