Committees hear bills addressing student basic needs, nursing education
Hearings continued through the fourth week of session, with committees taking up bills addressing student basic needs and nursing education. The House Appropriations Committee heard the fiscal impacts of the bill that would expand eligibility of the Washington College Grant, and the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard its version of the Career Connect Washington bill.
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee held a work session this morning to learn more about higher education enrollments. Look for coverage in next week's Legislative News.
Also this week, bills on student mental health counseling (SB 5513), dual credit and financial assistance information (HB 1146) and Career Connect Washington (SB 5305) passed out of their policy committees.
House Appropriations hears Washington College Grant expansion bill
Jan. 30 — The House Appropriations Committee at its hearing Monday took up 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. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard testimony on HB 1156 on Jan. 11 on and voted 12-2 on Jan. 18 to pass the bill to Appropriations.
“A lot of our students layer these financial aid packages — they get the [Washington] College Grant and the Pell Grant, and the Washington College Grant only has five years of coverage and the Pell Grant has up to six years,” Rep. Vandana Slatter, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This [gap] causes students to take our more loans and enter into significantly more debt or leave school before attaining their degree, which we want to stop.”
Slatter serves as chair of the Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.
Cosgrove, a student at Columbia Basin College, told committee members students sometimes need additional time to finish their college program because of academic, social and financial stressors. An additional year of Washington College Grant eligibility would provide students flexibility, if they needed it.
“Extending the eligibility period by one year would give students the opportunity to spend more time engaging in their education without having to worry about the financial pressures,” Cosgrove said. “As a recipient of the Washington College Grant myself, I can attest to how life changing this resource for me already in my college journey.”
In similar testimony, Katz, a student at Clover Park Technical College, said extended Washington College Grant eligibility would better prepare students for the workplace.
“For many students in the community [and technical] college system, the Washington College Grant is a lifeline to postsecondary education and the employment opportunities available upon program completion,” he said. “Expanding the eligibility period of this important and valuable resource would allow more students time to engage with their educational communities, better preparing them to enter the workforce and their field of choice.”
House committee hears bill addressing student basic needs
Jan. 31 — Following its Jan. 25 work session on student basic needs, the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard a bill Tuesday that would partly fund benefits resource hubs at colleges and universities. If passed, HB 1559 would also establish Student Basic Needs Task Forces and a Student Basic Needs Work Group to develop plans to create hunger-free campuses. The bill would also create a free and reduced-price meals pilot program at four community and technical colleges and two public four-year colleges or universities.
“What I want people to understand is that students on our college campuses have basic needs that unfortunately are not being met,” Rep. Debra Entenman, the bill’s prime sponsor and vice chair of the committee, said. “I believe that with this plan and this bill, students will actually be able to have the food, shelter and the assistance that they need to not only register for school, but to stay in school and to graduate.”
Jacob Katz, a student at Clover Park Technical College and a legislative intern with the State Board, told committee members that limited campus and community resources often can’t go far enough to meet students’ needs. Additionally, faculty and staff help connect students to support services, but it can take students multiple visits to different departments, forcing them to retell their story.
“It takes courage to ask for help, especially around such intimate topics, and I believe this should be acknowledged by making the process as trauma-informed and streamlined as possible,” he said. “Having a resource navigator would allow students a single point of contact, someone who knows them and their individual needs, turning the resource navigation process from transactional to transformational.”
Jennifer Dellinger, a student services policy associate with the State Board, also testified in favor of the bill, saying 85% of students who receive support services through state-funded programs stay enrolled into the following quarter.
“Navigators provide such important and immediate support to increase access to programs like SNAP benefits and child care through coordinating program eligibility with Basic Food, Employment and Training, thus allowing the students to focus on education,” she said.
Senate higher education committee hears bill addressing nursing education
Feb. 1 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Wednesday took up a bill addressing the state’s nursing shortage. The education-related part of the bill, SB 5582, would require the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to develop a plan to increase nursing credential opportunities, including developing an online Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program and guaranteed enrollment space for Home Care Aid to LPN Apprenticeship Pathway Program participants.
The bill would also create education opportunities within the Department of Veteran Affairs. It would additionally allow the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC) to approve bachelor’s degrees in nursing programs where the program administrator holds a graduate degree and experience, not necessarily a doctorate degree, and would require the NCQAC count one hour of simulation lab experience as two hours of clinical placement learning.
Sen. Jeff Holy, the bill’s prime sponsor and ranking member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, told members the bill is trying to alleviate nursing shortages quickly while increasing educational opportunities.
“We’ve got a bottleneck in the pipeline that I’m trying to expand with this over a five-year period to allow a little bit of a backfill at least with the nursing attrition that’s out there,” he said.
Anna Nikolaeva Olson, a workforce policy associate with the State Board, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Allowing nursing directors to administer Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs with a graduate degree, but not necessarily with a doctorate, removes one of the barriers that is especially felt in rural areas but, of course, applies statewide,” she said. “We also strongly support the one-to-two clinical sim to clinical placement ratio. That solution will allow us to grow the programs without compromising educational outcomes.”
Nikolaeva Olson expressed concern with the guaranteed enrollment space for Home Care Aid to LPN Apprenticeship Pathway aspect of the bill. Admissions to nursing programs is competitive and giving preference to some students would disadvantage others who chose a different educational route.
Marriya Wright, dean of Allied Health and Nursing at South Puget Sound Community College, also testified in favor of the bill but had similar concerns as Nikolaeva Olson.
“Nursing serves a diverse population in our communities, and with approval of this, many folks who have the time and money could seek out Home Care Aid programs but maybe not just to work but for access to that nursing program that is very competitive. This obviously increases the equity gap without any benefit to the workforce,” she said.
Wright also supported the change in simulation lab experience versus the clinical placement learning and the educational requirements for directors running Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.
Career Connect Washington bill heard in House higher ed committee
Feb. 1 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday heard a bill establishing the Office of Career Connect Washington. If passed, HB 1374 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. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee head the companion bill at a hearing Jan. 23.
“Currently [Career Connect Washington has] been housed with an interagency work group or counsel in the governor's office, and it's been supported by philanthropy and some dollars from the state, and this bill essentially moves it to a more permanent home within Washington Student Achievement Council, our higher ed agency,” Rep. Vandana Slatter, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, said.
Arlen Harris, legislative relations director for the State Board, testified on behalf of the community and technical college system, expressing support for the intent behind the bill and also concerns that it would override local decision-making authority at the college level.
The State Board, which manages the Career Launch endorsement process, has endorsed 94 programs as Career Launch programs to date, 80 of which are at community and technical colleges. To earn the endorsement, programs must combine academic and workplace components. The programs each serve about 40 to 50 students in areas like agriculture, welding and advanced manufacturing.
“The community and technical colleges are proud of the close partnership we have with Career Connect Washington since its formation,” Harris said.
Harris also voiced concern that the bill would create reporting requirements and supersede college authority over processes and procedures related to programming, enrollment and funding.
“We believe that these decisions should remain at the local level with colleges and their local boards of trustees who are anchored within their communities and with oversight by the State Board,” he said.
Coming up next week
Bills on student information sharing agreements and providing capital budget matching grants to independent colleges and universities are scheduled for hearings next week. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee is also set to take up its version of the student basic needs bill.