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Committees back at work, Running Start, data sharing agreements, student support bills up for hearings

March 17, 2023 by SBCTC Communications

In their first full week of hearings after last week's floor cutoff deadline, committees were back at work hearing bills on creating data sharing agreements, expanding Running Start to the summer, and making permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program.

The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Committee held a work session this morning on student transfer. Look for coverage of that in next week's Legislative News.

College Bound Scholarship expansion bill heard in Senate Higher Education committee

March 10 — At its hearing Friday, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee took up the bill that would expand eligibility to the College Bound Scholarship. 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. The bill passed the House Feb. 27 with a 92-3 vote.

Rep. Steve Bergquist, the bill’s prime sponsor, told senators that the bill’s goal is to ensure students can enroll in a community or technical college.

“[Students] have a few different standards they need to meet, but the one that really is kicking the most students out is the fact that they need to graduate with at least of 2.0 GPA,” he said.

Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill.

“This change would allow more students to be served and hopefully lead to more positive outcomes in their academic, professional and personal lives,” she said.

House Postsecondary Education committee hears Washington College Grant expansion bill

March 10 — The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee on Friday heard testimony on the bill that would expand eligibility of the Washington College Grant. If passed, 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. The bill passed the Senate March 2 with a 48-1 vote.

“Extending the Washington College Grant to six years aligns our state’s largest financial aid program with the federal Pell Grant program,” Yokiko Hayashi-Saguil, a student services policy associate at the State Board, said. “Having this in step with our federal aid partners allows students to maximize their eligibility and essentially allows them the time and space to be able to complete their programs.”

State Board legislative interns Jacob Katz and Shannon Cosgrove also spoke in favor of the bill.

“The current gap in eligibility between the Washington College Grant and federal Pell Grants 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,” Katz, also a student at Clover Park Technical College, said. “This expansion of eligibility period could be the difference that makes graduation possible.”

Cosgrove, a student at Columbia Basin College, told committee members that she’s a recipient of the Washington College Grant. She plans to transfer to complete a bachelor’s degree, which may mean she’ll need to continue to rely on financial aid programs for up to six years.

“Everyone finishes their education on a different timeline because of the academics, social, personal and financial strains associated with completing a collegiate degree,” she said. “Giving students the financial buffer during their sixth year, if they need it, allows for them to be in less debt as they join the workforce and reach their educational goals.”

House Education Committee hears data sharing agreement bill

March 13 — At its hearing Monday, the House Education Committee took up the bill that would allow Washington state’s public colleges and universities and The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create data-sharing agreements for the purpose of informing students of post-high school options. Under 2SSB 5593, the State Board would enter into an agreement with OSPI on behalf of the community and technical college system. OSPI would transfer high school student directory information to the State Board, which would then distribute it to community and technical colleges, and the state’s college and universities. The bill passed the Senate March 3 with a 40-8 vote.

“I think we should not charge our institutions for information about our own students, and I think we should know who all of our students are so that our colleges can share the great programs that they have,” Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.

Christine McMullin, a student services policy associate with the State Board, told committee members that the bill makes good policy sense.

“This bill would provide transparency in ensuring that all students have access to the full array of postsecondary options, including workforce and technical degree options throughout our community and technical colleges, by providing that direct information and outreach to each student,” she said.

Running Start expansion bill heard by Senate Early Learning committee

March 13 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee at its hearing Monday took up the bill that would expand access to Running Start. Passed by the House March 4 with a 60-36 vote, 2SHB 1316 states that every school district, charter school and state-tribal education compact school must allow eligible students to participate in Running Start. It would also fund students up to a combined maximum enrollment of 1.6 FTE instead of the current 1.2 FTE annually and allow participation during summer quarter.

Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee that until last year, with the Legislature’s authorization and funding, high school students were not able to participate in Running Start over the summer using state support.

“This bill would put that into a statute permanently and provide that funding mechanism through the FTE process,” he said.

Jamie Traugott, Director of Dual Credit and K-12 Alignment for the State Board, shared that 90% of the 3,500 students who participated in summer Running Start over the last two years completed their course, and 87% of students stayed enrolled from summer quarter to fall quarter.

“The expansion of Running Start into the summer term has the potential to assist in high school credit recovery, career exploration, and college and career readiness, resulting in an increase in high school diploma and degree or credential completion,” she said.

Brianne Robinson, a Running Start student at South Puget Sound Community College, also spoke in favor of the bill.

“This is necessary because traditional school doesn't provide for students who have faced adversity such as the COVID-19 pandemic as well as students who are on free and reduced lunch program who are faced with the choice between completing their degree and taking summer classes, and I am one of them,” she said.

Alexander Oliver, a Clover Park Technical College Running Start student, told committee members that being able to take classes over the summer allows him to remain with his accelerated Associate of Arts program cohort.

“This allowed me to continue forward with my fellow students, giving me continuity in my education and prevented me from having to fall back to the quarter behind me had I taken the summer quarter off,” he said.

Oliver continued that taking breaks from college courses reduces the likelihood that students, particularly those from low-income and at-risk households, will complete their programs.

“For many students, Running Start is their only opportunity to attend college. They should be given the best support possible to help them succeed,” he said.

For Centralia College Running Start students Aidan Cox and Paige Hill, summer courses gave them the ability to work toward their degrees and still have time for activities outside of school.

Cox, who is enrolled in a math and physics-intensive Associate in Science degree program, summer Running Start allows him to take required college-level classes, which are different than ones required for his high school diploma.

“Being able to do Running Start over the summer has allowed me and some of my friends to work towards these degrees and still have time for school, sports and jobs,” he said.

Hill, who plans to transfer to George Fox University to pursue a degree in psychology, said summer Running Start has helped her take different classes and manage credits at her high school and college.

“It gave me the ability to balance work, sports, school, family and friends as a low-income student, so I could more focus on the classes I needed with the assistance and the resources that was needed to help me succeed,” she said.

Robert Cox, vice president of Student Services at Centralia College, testified that many of the students participating in that college’s summer Running Start program were first-generation and low-income students who had not previously participated in the program.

“Many of those students commented on things like transportation issues and conflicts with school sports and other things that prohibit them [from participating] during the school year. The summer program in our service area is essential,” he said.

House Appropriations takes up Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program expansion bill

March 15 — At its hearing Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee heard the bill that would make permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program. ESSB 5702, which passed the Senate March 2 with a 46-3 vote, would open program participation to all public colleges and universities and the tribal college. Participating community and technical colleges would also be able to apply for grant funding to subsidize housing or a housing voucher program, if funded.

“Frankly, as a Legislature, we continue to fund something because it continues to work. The data is showing that it really does help student success — and ultimately lifelong success — when you are able to provide them enough security,” Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “When you don't know how your basic needs are going to get met, the very last thing that you're thinking about is your homework.”

Jennifer Dellinger, the State Board’s policy associate for student support programs, testified in favor of the bill, telling committee members that the program helps connect students with local community resources.

“A core function of the pilots is providing case management services and direct support to students that help address meeting their basic needs, including housing, food and transportation, health care, thus increasing their ability to remain enrolled,” she said.

Dellinger also spoke in favor of the housing voucher program.

“We see the housing voucher program as a natural fit within the current work of the pilots in the critical next step in increasing housing access for students,” she said.

Jacob Katz, a legislative intern with the State Board and student at Clover Park Technical College, testified that balancing obligations like going to class, homework, childcare and work can make it difficult to complete a certificate or degree.

“Establishing the pilot program as permanent and ensuring adequate funding is available would increase investment Washington's future workforce by making postsecondary education more accessible and providing opportunity for upward mobility and a happier healthier future,” he said.

Baydaa Alshatee, a legislative intern with the State Board and student at Everett Community College, told the committee that support she received as a first-generation student and first-generation immigrant gave her the help she needed to apply for financial aid to attend EvCC. She plans to transfer to Western Washington University, where she was just admitted.

“I highly recommend implementing these support systems for first-generation students. If they continue to be overwhelmed, there is a risk of losing out on their education," she said. "If a student does not have adequate housing, they're at risk for not being able to complete their education, further trapping them in the cycle of poverty and homelessness."

Coming up next week

The state's revenue forecast is expected Monday. The Senate is anticipated to release its versions of the operating budget bill of the capital budget on Monday and the operating budget on Friday. Up for hearings are bills on eliminating College in the High School fees and expanding nursing educational opportunities.

Last Modified: 6/13/24, 8:41 AM
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