Session reaches first cutoff, committees hear nursing bachelor's degree, credential transparency bills
The Legislature reaches its first cutoff deadline today. Bills, unless needed to implement a budget, must be voted out of House and Senate policy committees in order to continue in the 2023 legislative process.
Up for hearings this week were bills authorizing community and technical colleges to offer Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and creating a credential transparency work group.
Senate Higher Education committee hears student support, adjunct compensation bills
Feb. 10 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Friday took up a suite of bills addressing student basic needs and financial support, as well as one on adjunct faculty compensation.
Student basic needs
The committee first heard a bill that would establish student basic needs support at public postsecondary institutions. If passed, the bill would partly fund benefit resource hubs at public colleges and universities, establish Student Basic Needs Task Forces and a Student Basic Needs Work Group to develop plans to create hunger-free campuses, and create a free and reduced-priced meals pilot program at four community and technical colleges and two public four-year colleges or universities. The House version of SB 5566 was heard in the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee on Jan. 31.
“Higher ed is an expensive but absolutely worthwhile enterprise, and when we don't spend $5 on a sandwich to make sure that people can concentrate, it just doesn't work,” Sen. Sharon Shewmake, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
“Navigation is critical to ensuring students have access to resources to meet their basic needs and help them stay enrolled,” Dellinger said. “By meeting the diverse needs of all of our students, we can ensure that students have equal access to quality education and opportunities to succeed.”
Katz, a student at Clover Park Technical College, told senators that on-campus resources don’t go far enough to meet student demand and community resources are often also stretched too thin. Colleges can offer additional support to students, but they often need to make multiple visits to different departments, retelling their story and taking additional time.
“For many students on my campus and throughout the state, food and overall basic needs insecurity are a part of everyday life,” Katz 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.”
The Senate committee also heard a bill that would create the Washington Achievers Grant program. The program that would be established in SB 5655 would provide state matching grants to increase access to federal TRIO programs at colleges and universities. The Washington program would support Washington state resident students who are ineligible to participate in the federal program.
“I, myself, went through the TRIO program, and I think it's an excellent program, but for those that are DACA, or Dreamers as we know then, are not eligible for [TRIO], so definitely want to expand this program to include them,” Sen. Nikki Torres, the bill’s prime sponsor said.
Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system, Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student service policy associate with the State Board, told committee members that much of student success is based on students’ ability to feel supported and grounded.
“Creating the Washington Achievers Grant Program expands the capacity of our colleges to provide these resources and services to students who are not eligible to participate in federal TRIO programs,” she said. “In my experience, working as an academic advisor in a similar program, I have seen just how transformational and profound programs like the Washington Achievers Grant can be for students.”
Washington College Grant expansion
Senators also heard a 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 version of SB 5711 was heard in the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee on Jan. 11, passed to the Appropriations Committee on Jan. 18 and heard by that committee on Jan. 30.
“With unforeseen life circumstances or changes in majors, not every student graduates in five years, and the federal level for the Pell Grant recognizes this. It provides students up to six years in aid,” Sen. T'wina Nobles, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This bill aligns with that federal standard, which reduces the burden on administrative college aid offices and supports students' ability to financially plan for college. It also ensures that the state gets a better return on our investment because students are more likely to complete a degree in the increased timeframe and can begin contributing to the economy.”
State Board Legislative Intern Jacob Katz testified in favor of the bill, calling the Washington College Grant a lifeline to postsecondary education and employment opportunities for many students.
“Currently, the gap between the two funding sources can leave students struggling to complete their education as funds once used towards books, materials and living expenses must be redirected to cover tuition. For those students, this expansion of eligibility could be the difference that makes graduation possible,” he said.
Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a State Board student service policy associate, also testified in favor of the bill.
“Washington state has continued to be one of the most generous in the nation regarding financial aid, and this is an opportunity to create consistency between our state’s financial aid and the federal financial aid program,” she said. “Postsecondary education, in many cases, is cost prohibitive for students unless they utilize financial aid. This proposed extension of aid would allow students more time and funds to meet their postsecondary goals.”
Adjunct faculty compensation
Turning to compensation for adjunct and part-time faculty, committee members heard a bill that would require the State Board to develop and implement plans by the 2026-27 school year to provide compensation for adjunct and part-time faculty that equals or exceeds 85% of comparably qualified full-time faculty. Factors in SB 5557 that would be considered in compensation include time spent in direct student support, time in class, preparation for class, grading and assessment, and office hours.
Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee that he arrived at 85% from college collective bargaining agreements.
“It's working in a number of our institutions, and I believe it's time to take that standard statewide so that all of our faculty can count on the fair compensation it takes to deliver great education and ensure that while we're taking care of our students that we're also taking care of our staff and faculty to transfer success at our colleges,” he said.
Liias has also worked as an adjunct professor in the community and technical college system as well as the University of Washington.
Choi Halladay, the State Board’s deputy executive director for business operations, testified in favor of the bill, but cautioned that the bill’s implementation would be untenable without full funding by the state Legislature.
“In our work ensuring positive student outcomes at our 34 colleges throughout the state, we are committed to providing the best environment for students to learn and succeed,” he said. “An important part of the formula for that success is having a stable high-quality cadre of faculty to teach and a stable high-quality collection of staff to provide the necessary services to support students through their academic journey. Having all faculty and staff full-time and part-time paid competitive and appropriate wages for the work they perform as a key element in maintaining that support for students.”
Halladay asked the committee to ensure compensation increases are fully funded by the Legislature.
“The community and technical colleges are still in recovery mode for their work during the pandemic, and because of the Legislature’s hard work to ensure that tuition for students is kept affordable, the colleges do not have the local financial resources to absorb this type of policy without it being fully funded,” he said.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing bill heard in House committee
Feb. 14 — A bill that would authorize three community or technical colleges to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree was up for a hearing during Tuesday’s House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee’s meeting. If passed, the bill, HB 1733, would make BSN the second bachelor’s degree that community and technical colleges could offer. The Legislature authorized the other, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, during its 2021 session.
Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor, told committee members the bill is intended to start conversation about the importance of shortening the time it takes for students to earn a BSN.
“We want our registered nurses to get their bachelor's degree. That's what our employers want, what our hospitals want. Our nurses can have higher wages because they got that extra training,” he said.
Bennett pointed out that about 15,000 nursing jobs in Washington state require a bachelor’s degree, but about only 1,420 students graduate each year with a BSN.
“A local direct-entry BSN at a regional community college fills that gap in educational needs of the community, or at least starts getting us closer, and that increases access to a more cost-efficient option for students seeking a career and this high-wage, high-demand field,” she said.
Price told committee members that a BSN is the preferred degree for health care agencies.
“This is the way for us to provide equitable access for the people we serve, which are place bound, non-traditional and minority students who have dependents and just want to enter the workforce as prepared as they can with a BSN," she said.
House committee hears credential transparency bill
Feb. 15 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard a bill at its meeting Wednesday that would create a credential transparency work group. Staffed and housed by the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, the work group that would be created by HB 1821 would be responsible for:
- Increasing postsecondary credential transparency
- Distributing information on credentials
- Reviewing existing credential platforms, data and projects
- Identifying best practices to increase credential transparency
“Recognizing how credentials can be determined by your experience and by your education, that can be something that will flow through to all the different places where you might be actually educated is really valuable,” Rep. Vandana Slatter, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “Even though we've done really great work on Guided Pathways to help people understand what they absolutely need in terms of credits to get a degree, we still have the ability to transfer from work to a community or technical college to university in different times in our life and at multiple times in different schools.”
Carolyn McKinnon, a workforce education policy associate with the State Board, supported the intent behind the legislation. She told committee members that the community and technical college system hopes to have more input on the proposal.
“We are signed in as other today simply because the bill emerged very quickly, and out of the system of 34 community and technical colleges with multiple mission areas that are open to all comers from the public, we feel that it's important that they be well represented in this work," she said. "To that end, we'd appreciate the opportunity to have a little bit more time, perhaps over the interim, to continue working with our partner agencies and stakeholders on the scope and language of the bill.”
Coming up next week
Starting tomorrow, House and Senate budget committees will be busy over the week hearing the fiscal impacts of bills. They wrap up their work next Friday when session reaches its second cutoff deadline. On the schedule are bills on dual credit, the Washington College Grant, child care and the state ferries' workforce.