Dual credit, financial support, Career Connect bills heard as session ends third week
Legislators this week continued committee hearings, taking up bills on Career Connect Washington, dual credit, the College Bound Scholarship, campus decarbonization plans, corrections education and creating a Native American scholarship program. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee held a work session Wednesday taking a deeper dive into students' basic needs.
Moving out of committees this week were SB 5134, which would increase the money individuals receive upon release from prison, SB 5025, which would require the Department of Corrections to replace its Offender Management Network Information (OMNI) system, and the bills that would create the Washington Future Fund Trust Fund, SB 5125 and HB 1094.
Early Learning committee hears Career Connect Washington bill
Jan. 23 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee took up a bill Monday affecting Career Connect Washington (CCW). Established in 2017 and expanded in 2019, CCW is an effort to tie academic programs to the workplace. Requested by Gov. Inslee, SB 5305 would create the Office of Career Connect Washington within the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), revise terms, and add four additional members to the WSAC board.
Sen. Lisa Wellman, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, told the committee that the Career Connect initiative is about providing students, starting in the K-12 system, with workplace experiences.
“The thing that was so meaningful to me was talking to a student who said, ‘I don't think I will work here, but I never thought I could do this at all,’” Wellman said. “This network that we formed has interacted with families, with schools and with businesses, and put them together — meshed them together in this — in a statewide network that is really creating meaningful experiences for thousands of people who then go on to jobs in these businesses.”
Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were Paul Francis, executive director of the State Board, Amy Morrison, president of Lake Washington Institute of Technology, and Jean Hernandez, interim president of South Seattle College.
“We are proud of the close partnership that has been built with CCW since its formation,” Francis said.
The State Board manages the Career Launch endorsement process. To earn the endorsement, programs must combine academic and workplace components. Ninety-four programs have earned Career Launch endorsement, 80 of which are community and technical college programs.
Francis spoke of his support for the intent of the legislation but expressed concern with increasing the number of members of the WSAC board.
“It's highly effective in its current form, and I worry about creating confusion with other post-secondary entities,” he said.
Morrison also spoke in favor of the Career Connect effort.
“CCW is alive and well in Washington, and we're very proud of our 80 Career Launch programs in the community and technical college system,” she said.
Morrison told the committee that not all community and technical college programs could earn a Career Launch endorsement, leaving them out of the ability to apply for state funding for program development or expansion, equipment or enrollment support.
“In many of our allied health programs, our students are not allowed to be paid for their clinical experiences, therefore, many of our programs are not credentialed as Career Launch programs,” she said.
Morrison also spoke of the importance of preserving the effective, direct relationships between colleges and their workforce program advisory boards.
“It's critical that we have our own local ability and flexibility to serve our workforce through our professional-technical programs and the management of our local advisory committees,” Morrison said. “The State Board guides our professional-technical program process diligently, and an additional layer of regulation would slow our ability to serve our ever changing employer needs.”
Hernandez conveyed her appreciation for the bill’s commitment and vision to increase economic vitality and career mobility in the state. She similarly spoke about concerns that the bill would inhibit colleges’ flexibility in developing programs responsive to local community needs.
“We don't want to add more layers to the evaluation process as we look at Career Connect programs right now,” she said.
Education Committee hears 3 dual credit bills
Jan. 23 — The House Education Committee at its meeting Monday heard three dual credit-related bills. HB 1003 would lower dual credit program costs for students with financial need, make the Running Start summer program permanent, and expand requirements to notify students and their parents or legal guardians about dual credit programs and subsidy programs. Rep. Drew Stokesbary is the prime sponsor of the bill.
“What I’m most excited about is the equity component in all of this. We've seen ... that low-income kids and minority kids are less likely to take advantage of accelerated academic opportunities that they might be qualified for,” Stokesbary said. “The idea that we would provide all students [the opportunity] to do that I think can be one tool in the proverbial toolbox to help encourage low-income and minority children to take advantage of these opportunities that they would qualify for.”
Similarly, HB 1316 would lower dual enrollment program costs for students with financial need by creating a subsidy program. Additionally, Running Start students would be funded at 1.6 FTE instead of 1.2 FTE annually to allow participation during the summer quarter. The bill would also expand dual credit and financial assistance notification requirements to students and their parents or guardians. HB 1146 would require public high schools to notify students and their parents about available dual credit programs and relevant financial assistance. Rep. Dave Paul serves as the prime sponsor for HB 1316 and 1146.
“Middle-class families are much more likely to know about these programs than other working families, and sometimes it's challenging to get that information out to students,” Paul said of the notification requirements in HB 1316 and 1146.
Speaking about the Running Start summer program, Paul told the committee that making the pilot program permanent would allow students to catch up or get ahead with classes. The Legislature enacted a bill in 2020 that created a two-year summer Running Start pilot program at three community colleges. Skagit Valley College, South Puget Sound Community College and Yakima Valley College participate in the pilot program.
“[It’s a] very positive program, and this would allow that to be permanent,” Paul said. “[The bill] would allow also some reimbursement on the fees to help reduce the fees and help reduce the out-of-pocket book costs.”
Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K-12 alignment at the State Board, testified in favor of the bills.
“Unfortunately, inequities in accessing these programs continue to exist for our most vulnerable populations. Recent research indicates that out-of-pocket expenses along with limited, inaccurate information for students and families are the top barriers to accessing dual credit,” she said.
Traugott also expressed support for expanding the Running Start summer program FTE maximum and for making permanent the pilot program.
“The FTE increase will allow students to enroll in summer courses tuition free and help in areas of credit recovery and credential attainment,” she said. “Additionally, summer Running Start will help ensure that more students leave our community and technical colleges with a degree before transferring to our four-year partners.”
Bill to expand College Bound Scholarship heard in House higher education committee
Jan. 24 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard a bill Tuesday that would expand the eligibility requirements of the College Bound Scholarship. The scholarship, begun in 2007, provides guaranteed four-year tuition to students from low-income families who graduate from high school with at least a 2.0 GPA and have no felony convictions. If passed, HB 1232 would keep the 2.0 GPA requirement for students who wish to directly enroll in a public or private four-year college or university. Students enrolling in a community or technical college could have a lower GPA.
Rep. Steve Bergquist, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee that the bill could open doors for students who don't think they had a chance to go to college because of their grades.
“There's an opportunity here where the cost might not be a burden,” he said. “That opportunity alone is was what sparked them their freshman year to just take school seriously in a way that they might not have otherwise.”
Speaking on behalf of the community and technical college system, Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, testified that the College Bound Scholarship serves students who are historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education.
“This program has demonstrated our state’s commitment and continued efforts to ensure access for students as they prepare to embark on their postsecondary plans,” she said.
In the 2021-22 school year, 6,281 students received the scholarship. About 700 students, on average, fall below the 2.0 GPA threshold, but would be eligible to attend a community or technical college if HB 1232 passes.
Environment and Energy Committee hears decarbonization bill
Jan. 24 — An effort to reduce the carbon footprint of state-owned buildings was up for a hearing in Tuesday’s House Environment and Energy Committee meeting. HB 1390 would require owners of state campus district energy systems to develop a decarbonization plan. District energy systems are those that provide heating or cooling to five or more buildings with a total footprint of greater than 100,000 square feet.
Rep. Alex Ramel, the bill’s prime sponsor, said the bill is about making aging systems more energy efficient.
“By replacing the central heating plant with either waste heat from a neighboring facility, or heat pumps and relying on piped hot water rather than steam, or using waste heat will dramatically cut our carbon footprint,” he said. “It will also avoid that deferred maintenance and reduce our operating expenses over time.”
Darrell Jennings, capital budget director for the State Board, spoke in favor of the bill.
“We support the idea behind the legislation because it provides an opportunity for colleges with district energy systems to thoughtfully plan a campus-specific approach for decarbonizing their campus,” he said.
Jennings also supported looking at systems as a whole, not just on a building-by-building basis.
“Addressing campus needs in this way enables our system to make strategic investments where they will have the best impact. The longer-term planning and compliance horizon also enables campuses to better align energy efficiency projects with other facility needs in conjunction with the two-year state budgeting cycle,” he said.
Mental health pilot program expansion bill heard in Senate higher education committee
Jan. 25 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Tuesday took up a bill that would expand mental health services at community and technical colleges. SB 5513 would expand the mental health counseling and services pilot program, established in 2021, to more colleges and extend the program to July 1, 2026 from July 1, 2025. The bill would also require the State Board to contract with a telehealth provider to offer mental and behavioral health services to colleges not part of the pilot program.
“The data is off the charts in terms of the supports our students from that period need, and we still aren't able to meet all their needs on our campuses,” Sen. Marco Liias, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “So this bill, I think, is one of those must dos of this session to ensure that our students have supports.”
Christine McMullin, a student services policy associate at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill’s passage.
“The recent statewide post-secondary basic needs survey found that over one-third of Washington college students did not have consistent, reliable access to the mental behavioral health services they had needed within the past 12 months. These services simply don't exist even in their local communities on a consistent basis,” she said, referring to the Washington Student Achievement Council’s (WSAC) recent statewide study on postsecondary basic needs.
The WSAC study reported 34.4% of respondents said they were always able to access mental and behavioral health services they needed in the past 12 months, while 37.6% indicated that was sometimes true or never true.
Jenny Mao, a faculty counselor at North Seattle College, also spoke in favor of the bill. North Seattle, along with Grays Harbor College, Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Wenatchee Valley College, were selected in 2021 as the four mental and behavioral health service pilot program colleges.
“The service we provide is essential because the population we see is unable to access care through other modality in our public mental health system,” she said. “It makes a lasting, impactful difference for students to work with experienced professionals to case manage and understand the system they are involved in. This bill is about retention, equity, access, success, opportunity and responsibility to care for our most vulnerable students.”
Jacob Katz, a State Board legislative intern and Clover Park Technical College student, also testified in favor of the bill. He told senators that students often have other demands outside of school, like caring for families and working, that leave little time for self-care or seeking counseling services.
“The expansion of this pilot program and the potential use of a telehealth model would help more students to access the services they need without further taxing their schedule and taking away time from their education and families,” he said. “Increasing the accessibility to these important services on our community and technical college campuses would also encourage those in need to seek help by providing more timely and visible options than those offered by community providers.”
House higher education committee holds work session on student basic needs
Jan. 25 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee held a work session during its Wednesday meeting to learn more about students’ basic needs and ideas for meeting those needs. The session comes on the heels of a Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) and Western Washington University study released last week on student basic needs security. The survey of over 9,700 students conducted in fall 2022 at 39 colleges and universities found that nearly half of students experienced basic needs insecurity. The study’s findings included:
- 50.1% of community and technical college students experienced either food insecurity or housing insecurity, comparable to four-year college and university students.
- 39.1% of community and technical college students experienced food insecurity, comparable to four-year college and university students.
- 37.6% of community and technical college students experienced housing insecurity and homelessness at a greater rate than four-year college and university students.
Madeline Sprute, student body president at Tacoma Community College, told the committee her experience coming from a low-income family and as someone who experienced housing insecurity.
“I grew up in a rural part of Klickitat County, and my family was very low income. We have a long history of generational poverty. And to give you an idea of what that's like, my first memory is from a time when my mom, brother and I were homeless. I don't know a life without basic needs insecurity,” she said.
Sprute dropped out of middle school and did not attend high school. She enrolled in Tacoma Community College in 2020 but struggled to find housing. TCC’s connections with housing services and the college's navigators helped her find housing, allowing her to stay in school. She is on track to earn her associate degree in the fall and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Her story, Sprute said, is not unique.
“As a student leader, I hear about basic needs insecurity on a daily basis from friends in passing between classes. I see it when my classmates don't show up because they couldn't find someone to watch their kids,” she said. “It makes me think about all the people I know who dropped out around the same time as me in junior high. As much as I feel passionately about education, how can I possibly suggest that they should go to college too when it wasn't even a safe option for me. It's a huge shame because the opportunities that community colleges offer students are life changing.”
Jennifer Dellinger, a student services policy associate with the State Board, also spoke before the committee, telling members about the benefit on-campus navigators provide in connecting students with basic needs services.
Applications for aid benefits, she said, are often complex and vary by region and provider. Students have to complete separate applications for aid, which requires them to repeatedly tell their story and demonstrate their need. Navigators build relationships with community resources, help students identify aid sources and assist students with completing applications.
“The special relationships that navigators develop within their campus departments and their communities create opportunities for students to access emergency supports and other assistance to help meet their most basic of needs,” Dellinger said. “This provides them with the ability to remain engaged and focused on their education and creates additional equitable access to retention and completion.”
Corrections education expansion bill heard in House higher education committee
Jan. 25 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee took up a bill Wednesday that would increase participation in corrections education programs by at least 50% by 2026. The bill further directs the Department of Corrections to prioritize programs that would lead to living-wage jobs once the individual is released.
“And we know that with the workforce shortages that our state is currently experiencing right now, removing barriers to getting folks back into the workforce is really the goal of this bill,” Rep. Kristine Reeves, the prime sponsor said of HB 1338.
Pat Seibert-Love, corrections education policy associate at the State Board, and Hanan Al-Zubaidy, corrections education program administrator at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill, stressing the importance of allowing students to complete their education programs.
“As people have additional education, they enter the market at higher wages, they progress to higher wages more frequently. That's what we want,” Seibert-Love said. “If the job can't provide for a career opportunity for people to be successful and have a living wage, restore their family, their community, then I don't think I should be interested in, and you shouldn't either.”
Al-Zubaidy asked that DOC consult with education providers before transferring an incarcerated student so that student’s education wouldn’t be negatively impacted. A transfer after the college’s deadline to drop classes means the student would receive a withdraw or failing grade. The student would no longer have good academic standing, impacting their ability to receive financial aid upon release.
“The emotional and mental stressors of being pulled from class at any point in the quarter had many students in my office when I was an education navigator asking what they could possibly do to make sure they could continue their trajectory successfully,” she said.
Bill creating Native American scholarship heard in House higher education committee
Jan. 27 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard a bill Friday that would create the Native American Scholarship. To earn the scholarship, a student must be a member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe located in the United States, file the FAFSA or WASFA, and enroll in an undergraduate or registered apprenticeship program. Award amounts would be made in consultation with tribes, colleges and universities, and registered apprenticeship programs.
“The state has something enormous to do here and that's recognizing that the First People of this great state, of this great nation, we matter; our education matters,” Rep. Debra Lekanoff, the bill’s prime sponsor, said of HB 1399. “We are people of great pride, we are people of great responsibility, and we will take this testimony, we will take this work, we will take the investment we’re given Washington state and give back as much as or as twice fold as we have before.”
Lynn Palmanteer-Holder, director of tribal government affairs at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the community and technical college system.
“I’m here to continue to support HB 1399 and support the continued work that our community and technical colleges are providing in working with our tribal communities,” she said. “We see ourselves as a support institution to ensure that we are providing the outreach and the technical assistance for any of our students who may be interested in workforce development and career-technical education opportunities, and that we’re building on the tribal economic workforce and infrastructure needs.”
Trustees confirmed by Senate
"Now, Mr. President, I will tell you having met the student trustee when I was in college, that voice is incredibly important at the table, and it really is quite an accomplishment for them to receive this appointment," Sen. Patty Kuderer said of O'Meara.
"They've served as the executive officer for budget and finance for the student association, and bring a lot of really important perspectives, particularly as we're welcoming more international students back in the aftermath of the pandemic. Having Shinhae's voice on the board of trustees to center on these students is really important," Sen. Marko Liias said of Hwang.
Coming up next week
Next week marks the fourth week of the 2023 legislative session. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee is set to hear a bill addressing basic needs at colleges and universities. Also scheduled for hearings are bills on nursing and the House companion bill to SB 5305, which would establish the Office of Career Connect Washington.
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee plans to hold a work session at its meeting Friday to learn more about the community and technical college system.