Dual credit, basic needs bills on the docket ahead of today's fiscal committee cutoff
House and Senate fiscal committee hearings were long this week but testimony was short as committee members worked to hear and vote on bills ahead of today's fiscal committee cutoff deadline. Following the Feb. 17 policy committee cutoff, the budget-related committees had just this week to complete their work. That meant marathon meetings with time-limited public testimony for committees to work their way through dozens of bills.
On the docket this week were bills on dual credit, student support, data sharing, nursing education and corrections education. The Senate Transportation Committee also continued a work session from last week to learn more about what colleges are doing to support transportation-related workforce development efforts.
Dual credit expansion bills heard in House and Senate committees
House and Senate committees took up bills aimed at expanding access to dual credit programs. A bill that would remove fees for high schoolers who want to enroll in College in the High School courses was up for a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. That committee also heard a bill that would open up Running Start to 10th graders, while the House Appropriations Committee took up a bill on creating a Running Start subsidy program and expanding Running Start to summer quarter.
Removing College in the High School fees
The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard a bill Saturday that would eliminate costs for high school 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders to enroll and register in College in the High School courses. Under SB 5048, the Legislature would be required to appropriate funding for CHS courses, adjusting for inflation. The bill would fund community and technical college-administered courses at $3,500.
“We’re reimbursing based on the cost that the colleges were incurring. None of the colleges are going backwards based on the numbers in this bill,” Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. With this bill in place, he believes more students would pursue education after high school. “I think it's going to make a big difference,” he said.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, told committee members that College in the High School courses help students as they pursue a college-level degree or certificate.
“Whether it's at a community [or technical] college to get some credits out of the way on the way to your associate degree or to a university for bachelor's degree, it's seamless,” he said.
Harris praised the bill for removing barriers for high school students who want to earn college credit.
“The dual credit programs in Washington state are absolutely fabulous,” he said. “They are thought of with great respect across the country, and anything we can do to reduce barriers, especially financial barriers, is something that I think we should be doing.”
The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass the bill at its hearing Thursday.
Expanding Running Start
A bill that would lower dual enrollment program costs for students with financial need was up for a hearing during Monday’s House Appropriations Committee hearing. HB 1316 would create a subsidy program, fund Running Start Students at 1.6 FTE instead of 1.2 FTE annually to allow participation during summer quarter, and expand dual credit and financial assistance notification requirements to students and their parents or guardians.
“Increased funding to offset out-of-pocket expenses students incur when participating in dual credit programs will result in more college credit accrual and credential attainment, saving Washington students and families time and money,” Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, said.
“We are particularly supportive of the extension of summer Running Start, as it will provide an opportunity for more students to complete their transfer degrees before going to one of our baccalaureate institutions. This results in a short timeline to a bachelor's degree,” he continued.
In the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday was a bill that would allow high school 10th graders to participate in online-only Running Start courses. SB 5670 would also limit 10th graders to no more than five quarter credits per term and require colleges and universities to designate whether course are eligible for Running Start and for which grades.
Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K-12 alignment at the State Board, thanked the committee for looking at expanding dual credit options, but expressed concern with the bill as it's written.
“Under current law all college-level courses are open to Running Start students,” she said. “However, this bill requires colleges to designate whether a course is offered as a Running Start course and if the course is eligible for 10th grade Running Start students.”
Traugott also pointed out that the bill would cost the community and technical college system an estimated $459,000 to implement a process of identifying courses 10th grade Running Start students would be eligible to take.
Committees take up bills on meeting student basic needs
Fiscal committees paid particular attention to supporting students' needs this week, hearing bills on expanding the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program, mental health and basic needs.
Making permanent Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program
A bill that would make permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program was heard during Tuesday’s Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting. SB 5702, if passed, would remove the program’s pilot expiration date and make all public colleges, universities, and tribal college eligible to participate, if funded.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, told committee members that students who participated in the pilot program were more likely to complete the quarter in which they received support. Fifty-one percent of community and technical college students reported housing or food insecurity in fall 2022.
“This is a problem across our state,” he said. “Each college customizes its approach to the communities it serves, their local housing market and challenges, and their community partners, and they're able to use these grants to leverage relationships with our community partners to serve more students.”
Expanding mental health services
The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday took up a bill expanding 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, provided the Legislature appropriates funding for that purpose.
Christine McMullin, a student services policy associate at the State Board, told the committee that pilot program colleges have been able to support more students, and they’ve seen a positive impact on student success, including increased quarter-to-quarter retention.
“Providing flexibility for colleges to target their needs to provide services that are integrated into the campus community is a strength of the pilot program,” she said.
A fall 2022 study showed 35.5% of community and technical college students had inadequate mental health care access.
The bill was scheduled for a vote at yesterday's Ways and Means Committee hearing, but no action was taken.
Supporting student basic needs
The Senate Ways and Means Committee took up a bill supporting student basic needs. If passed, SB 5566 would require colleges and universities to develop strategic plans to address students’ basic needs, including designing benefits hubs using full time navigators. To help institutions fund the navigators, the bill, if funded, would create a basic needs grant program administered by the State Board and the Washington Student Achievement Council, with the expectation that other sources of funds would also be leveraged. The proposal would also create a free and reduced-priced meals pilot program at four community and technical colleges and two public four-year colleges or universities.
Lauren Hibbs, student services director for the State Board, testified in favor of the bill. She pointed out that community and technical college students enrolled in student basic needs programs result in an 85% quarter-to-quarter persistence rate.
“There's a huge return on investment in investing in student basic needs,” she said.
Hibbs continued, saying that colleges with navigators not only help connect students with programs like SNAP benefits, child care, and Basic Food and Employment Training, but become eligible for federal reimbursement.
“By funding navigators, colleges are eligible for a 50% reimbursement from the USDA, building capacity for more colleges to serve students without burdening them and increasing the capacity for students to obtain livable wage jobs,” she said.
Over in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, representatives heard HB 1559, its version of SB 5566. The House version of the bill differs from the Senate bill, following an amendment by the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee, requiring the State Board create a Student Basic Needs Task Force to create a single Hunger-Free and Basic Needs Campus Strategic Plan for community and technical colleges. The State Board would also be required to design and implement a Benefits Navigator Grant program to fund navigators at selected community and technical colleges. The creation of the Free and Reduced-Price Meals Pilot Program remains the same in both the House and Senate versions of the bill.
With similar testimony to Hibbs, Jennifer Dellinger, a student services policy associate for the State Board, testified in favor of the bill.
“Navigators serve as a flexible and dynamic solution that respond to multifaceted needs of students,” she said. “They provide direct, immediate support and increase access to a variety of programs, including SNAP benefits and child care, and for coordinating program eligibility with programs like Basic Food Employment and Training and the Department of Social Health and Services without creating undue burden on students.”
Senate Ways and Means hears bills expanding Washington College Grant
A bill that would increase eligibility for the maximum award for the Washington College Grant was up for a hearing during Monday’s Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting. If SB 5703 passes, students earning up to 70% of the state’s median family income would be eligible for the maximum WCG award. The bill would also provide bridge grants to support students receiving the maximum WCG award. The grants would cover higher education-related expenses beyond tuition and fees.
“For many students across the state and the country, the most significant barrier to post-secondary education is the cost,” Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, said. “The proposed enhancement of the Washington College Grant and the bridge grant is a demonstration of our state’s efforts to provide students with the necessary financial aid to pursue postsecondary education.”
Hayashi-Saguil praised the bridge grant program, saying that it recognizes students’ expenses outside of tuition and fees covered by the Washington College Grant.
“They’re workers, athletes, parents, leaders and community members who have expenses such as housing, food, transportation, daycare, and many others while simultaneously working towards their post-secondary credential,” she said. “These bridge grants can provide students with some of the funds to meet those other expenses.”
Senators on the Ways and Means Committee at their hearing Tuesday took up SB 5711, which 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.
Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a State Board student service policy associate, spoke in favor of the bill.
“We support this change that will enable students at our colleges and others across the state to have more flexibility as they work towards post-secondary credential completion,” she said. “Financial aid programs are fundamental to educational equity, and our students benefit from expanded access to funds that allow them to reach their educational goals.”
Nursing education bill heard in Senate Ways and Means Committee
Feb. 18 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee took testimony Saturday on a bill addressing the state’s nursing shortage. 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.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, spoke in favor of the legislation.
“We are especially supportive of the faculty qualifications and simulation lab ratio portions of the bill,” he said. “Also receiving a lot of love from your community and technical colleges is the planning process in this bill to train more nurses, the salary study and the design of online curriculum.”
Senate Transportation Committee learns how colleges help develop transportation workforce
Feb. 21 — At its hearing Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee continued a work session it started last week on transportation workforce development. Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, Bob Mohrbacher, president of Centralia College, and Bradley Lane, interim president of Seattle Central College, spoke to committee members about how the community and technical college system is supporting transportation-related workforce education efforts.
Giving committee members an overview of the state’s community and technical colleges, Harris highlighted programs in commercial driver’s licensing, automotive, diesel technology, maritime, and logistics and supply chain. He also spoke about partnerships between colleges and employers that ensure programs teach students the most up-to-date industry skills as well as provide a path to employment for students.
Harris reiterated the college system’s operating budget requests of investing in workforce programs and in fully funded competitive compensation for faculty and staff, both of which would boost workforce development.
“We are not untouched by the workforce strain across our state,” he said.
Mohrbacher told committee members about Centralia College’s investments in its commercial driver’s license program and its Bachelor of Applied Science in Diesel Technology. Centralia College received funding to support its CDL program through part of a $2.5 million grant program funded by the Legislature in the 2022 session. Community and technical colleges, private career schools and colleges, and K-12 school districts were eligible to apply for grants to support student access to education and training for CDL and school bus drivers.
The CDL program, Mohrbacher explained, is expensive. The college has to find, purchase, and maintain equipment and land to run the program.
“We have to continually upgrade those things. It also takes a lot of space to do these things,” he said of the required equipment and land.
To help offset expenses, Centralia College developed partnerships with area businesses and the Chehalis-Centralia Airport to support its CDL program. The college received in-kind support from businesses like Weyerhaeuser, Sierra Pacific Industries and the Washington Trucking Association. At the airport, students to learn to drive 18-wheel semitrailer trucks, and the college uses the grounds to store the trucks when they’re not in use.
Centralia is also looking ahead to be ready for changes in the industry, like the adoption of hydrogen cell and electric vehicles. The college also developed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management program to help meet transportation workforce demand.
“We're training not only the truck drivers and the mechanics, but people who can manage that supply chain and the logistics. We want to make sure that we're preparing for all levels of the workforce need,” he said.
Turning to the Seattle College District, Lane summarized Seattle Central College’s efforts to support the maritime industry and South Seattle College’s work with apprenticeship programs. The Seattle Maritime Academy, part of Seattle Central, runs programs for people looking to work as able seamen and marine engineers.
Lane spoke extensively about the college’s partnership with Washington State Ferries. A quarter of students intern with the ferry system and about 40% of students find work there, making it the college’s largest employment destination.
“We're really excited to tighten this partnership with Washington State Ferries, and that means maximizing the use of the academy's facilities, scaling up cohorts quickly, implementing joint training opportunities with the ferries where practicable, and, ideally, developing a joint recruitment plan with Washington State Ferries so that we can address the pressing workforce need for mariners,” he said.
Lane continued his presentation speaking about South Seattle College’s apprenticeship programs and partnerships with employers like King County Metro and Waste Management Northwest.
“We see these partnerships as having a ton of value because the employers get specialized training, and we wind up getting a real enrichment in our own programs through the use of equipment, facilities, time and space that we otherwise wouldn't have,” he said.
South’s partnerships mean students go to school and work as apprentices, leading to full-time employment with competitive wages, sign-on bonuses and other benefits.
During the 2021-22 school year, 3,717 apprentices were enrolled at South Seattle College.
Like Centralia’s CDL program, programs at Seattle Central and South Seattle are expensive to operate because of equipment costs and anticipated emerging technology purchases. South Seattle’s diesel and automotive technology programs, Lane said, are looking to add environmentally-friendly components to the curriculum, as well as exploring electric car partnerships.
“We love the partnerships with our state transit agencies, and we think they benefit everyone: the partnering organizations, the colleges, and most importantly, the graduating students who are moving into the workforce pretty seamlessly into in-demand fields with real-world job-ready experience,” he said.
Senate Ways and Means hears data sharing agreement bill
Feb. 21 — A data-sharing agreement bill was up for a hearing Tuesday during the Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting. SB 5593 would create an agreement between The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the state’s public colleges and universities to share high school student directory information for the purpose of informing students of their post-high school educational opportunities. The bill was amended by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee to include community and technical colleges.
“It is important that such data sharing must be the inclusive of the broad array of post-secondary options students have in Washington state,” Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, said. “This is absolutely an enrollment tool to increase college going rates of our Washington high school students, and we must make it easy for students took access information about their options, and that includes your 34 community and technical colleges.”
Bill delaying greenhouse gas emission report heard in Senate Ways and Means
Feb. 22 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee at its hearing Wednesday took up SB 5057, a bill that would delay by one year the reporting schedule required by the Clean Buildings Act, passed in 2019. Under the act, the Department of Commerce was required to establish a rule to maximize reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.
“Just adding one year extra time is us acknowledging as the Legislature that COVID happened in the middle of this, and we're basically allowing some flexibility for people to make these investments,” Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
Darrell Jennings, capital budget director for the State Board, spoke in favor of the bill.
“We feel the timing helps with the delays caused by the pandemic and better aligns with the scheduling of the biennial budget cycle for facilities that need capital work to meet compliance,” he said.
Corrections education financial aid, degree bill heard in House Appropriations
Feb. 23 — The House Appropriations Committee at its hearing Thursday took up a bill aimed at supporting students in corrections education programs. HB 1338 would allow students to use federal and state financial aid to pay for their programs, with the Department of Corrections responsible for any costs that exceed allocated financial aid. The bill would also require DOC to provide access to a direct transfer associate degree that would lead to employment in a living-wage career or to transfer to a university.
Pat Seibert-Love, corrections education policy associate at the State Board, told committee members that education ultimately leads to lower recidivism rates. Lack of employment, she said, is the primary factor leading to people returning to prison, and allowing students to complete a direct transfer degree would qualify students for living-wage jobs.
“It would be unethical and completely inappropriate for students to be forced to use federal or state financial aid for a limited vocational certificate or degree while not being authorized the ability to seek a direct two-year associate transfer degree,” she said.
Coming up next week
Representatives and senators will be on the floor next week debating and voting on bills that made it past last week's policy committee cutoff and today's fiscal committee cutoff deadlines. As bills pass their originating chamber, committees in the opposite chamber will begin scheduling and hearing those bills to continue in the legislative process.