College system-supported bills moving as session passes halfway mark
Thursday marked session's halfway point, and representatives and senators spent the week on the floor debating and voting on bills ahead of Wednesday's floor cutoff deadline. On the docket this week were bills expanding the Washington College Grant and the College Bound Scholarship, as well as making permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program.
House passes dual credit notification bill
Feb. 13 — The House on Feb. 13 passed a bill requiring public high schools to notify students and their parents and guardians about dual credit programs and related financial assistance. HB 1146, which received a 96-0 vote, would also require schools to provide this information in the primary language of each parent or guardian, when feasible.
“The problem is many parents don't know about all the options that their students have to earn [dual] credits while they're still in high school,” Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This is a simple bill that allows school districts to get that information out to parents once a quarter, or once a semester, or once a trimester — whatever their system that they’re on — and to get that information to parents so that they can help their children make the best possible choices about what classes they can take to earn those college credits or get that workforce training.”
The bill was referred to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
College Bound Scholarship expansion bill passes House
Feb. 27 — The bill expanding eligibility to the College Bound Scholarship passed the House Monday with a 93-3 vote. HB 1232 would allow College Bound-eligible students with below a 2.0 GPA to use the scholarship at a community or technical college. Under current law, students must have at least a 2.0 GPA and no felony convictions to use the scholarship at any public or private college or university. The College Bound Scholarship, begun in 2007, provides guaranteed four-year tuition to students from low-income families.
“There's a plethora of issues that could come up for students in their path to succeed in high school, and this bill would really go a long way to promoting more of those students to continue on to higher education,” Rep. Steve Bergquist, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
Bergquist cited information from the Washington Student Achievement Council estimating 7,000 students graduate each year who would be eligible for the College Bound Scholarship, except they don’t meet the 2.0 GPA requirement.
“This would allow all those 7,000 students to enroll under the College Bound Scholarship into a CTC program [or an] apprenticeship program — not directly to a four-year [college or university] — but allow them to pursue their dreams to that next step,” he said.
The bill was referred to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Senate passes Washington College Grant expansion bill
March 2 — The Washington College Grant eligibility expansion bill passed the Senate Thursday 48-1. SB 5711 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.
“This bill is about advancing student achievement and success. It's also about accessing economic prosperity and opportunities for students to advance, and we're talking about students who need it most,” Sen. T'wina Nobles, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This bill aligns with that federal [Pell Grant] standard which reduces the administrative burden on colleges and their financial aid offices and supports students' ability to plan financially for college.”
Bill making permanent Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program passes Senate
March 2 — The bill to make permanent the Students Experiencing Homelessness program passed the Senate Thursday with a 46-3 vote. Under ESSB 5702, all public colleges and universities, and the tribal college would be eligible to participate. Participating community and technical colleges would also be able to apply for grant funding to subsidize housing or a housing voucher program, if funded.
“This time it makes that pilot program that started in 2019, expanded in 2021, into a permanent program,” Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, the bill’s prime sponsor, said of the program’s development. “Part of that reason is when we track programs that work, and we know that the successes are there, we want to make sure that we continue those.”
Decarbonization bill passes House
March 2 — The House late Thursday passed a bill that would reduce the carbon footprint of state-owned buildings with a 92-4 vote. 2SHB 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.
“Currently we'd have to look at each of those individual buildings to meet the [energy performance] standard, but if we look at them holistically as a system, there are not only opportunities for deeper energy efficiency, but also to save money in how we implement and meet those standards. This bill supports that cost-effective big picture approach,” Rep. Alex Ramel, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.
Coming up next week
Floor action continues through Wednesday when session reaches the floor cutoff deadline. That marks when bills, unless necessary for a budget, must be passed out of their originating chamber in order to continue in the legislative process. Committees will pick up their work again Thursday hearing bills coming to them from the opposite chamber.