Senate budgets released, committees hear College in the High School fee elimination, nursing education bills
Washington state will have almost $500 million less in its budget over the next two years, according to projections released Monday by the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The council estimates about $483 million less, about 0.7%, than the projection it released in November. It also anticipates the state will see about $541 million less for the 2025-27 biennium. The revenue projections help guide House and Senate budget writers as they put final touches on their proposals.
Also on Monday, the Senate released its version of the capital budget, holding a hearing that afternoon. The Senate on Thursday released its version of the operating budget, with a hearing held this afternoon.
Up for hearings this week were bills on eliminating College in the High School fees and nursing education.
Senate hears testimony on proposed operating budget
March 24 — The Senate Ways & Means Committee heard testimony on its proposed 2023-25 operating budget on Friday. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, State Board chair, expressed concerns about the budget. Joining her were Bob Mohrbacher, Centralia College president, and Paul Francis executive director of the State Board.
Gutiérrez Kenney expressed concern about the proposal’s lack of funding for community and technical college workforce programs.
“Workforce needs are changing rapidly and Washington employers are desperate to find people with up-to-date skills who can operate sophisticated, high-tech machines and equipment,” she said. “We urge you to support the workforce programs for the sake of students, employers, communities and our economy.”
Mohrbacher pointed out that the budget plan would fund only 83% of COLA increases, leaving community and technical colleges to fund the remaining 17%, amounting to a $39 million cut to the college system. “My message is simple: This proposal would do significant harm to CTCs across the state,” he said.
Francis said the college system is thankful for investments in student financial aid, nursing education, and support for students experiencing homelessness, but he reiterated the concerns expressed by the prior speakers. “CTCs and the students we serve are beacons of light and opportunity, so let’s continue to work with you on this,” he said.
Senate hears testimony on capital budget spending plan
March 20 — The Senate released its version of the capital budget Monday, with the Ways and Means Committee taking it up for a public hearing that afternoon. The budget fully funds the community and technical college system’s priority list through Lower Columbia College’s Center for Vocational and Transitional Studies project, number 15 on the list. The budget does not include funding for construction of Olympic College’s Innovation and Technology Learning Center, number 10 on the list, after the college requested to pause the project.
“In developing workforce education programs, colleges collaborate with their local communities to identify workforce needs and then establish programs that support them,” Darrell Jennings, capital budget director for the State Board, said. “Colleges also work together with the State Board to prioritize urgent needs and maximize the use of every dollar provided to them.”
Chris Bailey, president of Lower Columbia College, thanked senators for the budget proposal and the inclusion of construction funding for his college’s Center for Vocational and Transitional Studies.
“The proposed building is a key piece to LCC’s strategic plan, housing our welding, machining, manufacturing and IT programs, as well as our high school and college preparation programs,” he said. “These programs create pathways for great careers, not just jobs. The graduates and their families will benefit, but also our region’s small businesses, large industries and trade unions.”
The committee on Wednesday approved the budget proposal. It now awaits consideration of the full Senate.
Senate Higher Education committee holds work session on student transfer
March 17 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee devoted its March 17 hearing to learning more about students’ ability to transfer between the state’s colleges and universities. Valerie Sundby, the State Board’s transfer education director, was joined by Julie Garver, representing the state’s six public baccalaureate institutions, and Terri Standish-Kuon, representing the state’s private not-for-profit colleges and universities.
“The metaphor that we are starting to use quite often is this idea of we need to create a better map for students so that they better understand how to move between the different places on the map,” Sundby said. “But we also are really committed to building a better road. It's not just a map for a complicated or broken road system, but it's also fixing the road so that the road is straighter and much more clear for students.”
Sundby told senators that about 70% of students enrolling in the state’s community and technical colleges plan to transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree and that Washington state is often looked to as a model nationwide because of its statewide coordinated transfer efforts.
“Plans change over time. Most [of us], probably all of us, weren't on a straight path, and most of our students aren't either, but we still know that a significant number do have transfer as their goal,” she said. “So it is worth us continuing to put the time, and the effort, and the resources into assuring that those transfer systems that we build are as efficient as possible and work as well as possible for students.”
Speaking about the state’s collaborative efforts, Garver described ongoing efforts to ensure transfer processes continue to work well as colleges and universities change.
“Much like how our students change over time, we want make sure that our access, and our completion, and our pathways to achieving the educational goals of Washingtonians are also changing to keep pace with those needs,” she said.
“Both are led institutionally, which means the work comes from the ground up and comes to us at the state level with buy-in and support from students, staff and faculty,” she said. “We do not work in isolation of just these committees. We are constantly reaching out to students, advisors, faculty and staff to inform these decision policies.”
Standish-Kuon focused her time on reverse transfer, which gives students the ability to take credits earned at a baccalaureate college or university and apply them to a community or technical college certificate or degree.
“We always want a student to have essentially that stamp of the work that they have completed. We know firsthand that life happens for our students, and so we want them to have the security of that credential,” she said. “We also know that in the State of Washington, we have a shared goal of 70% credential attainment, so every time that we can help us student get a credential that's important.”
The presentation wrapped up with Standish-Kuon describing current initiatives, highlighting:
- STEM transfer partnerships to develop ways to improve outcomes for low-income STEM students.
- Strengthening Transfer Pathways to the Liberal Arts, an effort funded by the Teagle and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to address the academic, cultural and financial aspects of transfer education.
- Transfer data in an effort to inform transfer policy and degree development.
- Review of current statewide transfer degrees in computer science and biology.
College in the High School fee elimination bill heard in House Postsecondary Education committee
March 21 — The bill about eliminating College in the High School fees was up for a hearing Tuesday in the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee’s meeting. If 2SSB 5048 receives funding, colleges and universities offering College in the High School must provide those courses at no cost to high school 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Community and technical colleges would be reimbursed $3,500 per course.
Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee his bill would save students money and help more students receive college-level credit.
“You'd have a kid who didn't pay the $330 [course fee], they get an A in the class, they know the material inside and out, but they get zero college credit. This bill would actually fix that in a way that's actually more affordable for the state than the previous proposals we've had in front of us,” he said.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, also spoke in favor of the bill.
“Meeting students where they are is what we do. Running Start is fabulous — it's an incredible opportunity, especially with the bill you heard earlier this year about summer Running Start and getting students closer to their associate degree at their end of high school,” he said. “College in the High School is another amazing way to meet students where they are, and this is what we do across our college system.”
House Postsecondary Education committee hears nursing education bill
March 22 — At its hearing Wednesday, the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee heard testimony on a nursing education bill. If passed, E2SSB 5582 would require the State Board to develop a plan to increase nursing credential opportunities, require the development of an online Licensed Practical Nurse program at two community or technical colleges and modify program approval and training requirements under the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.
“I wanted to step back and look at this from about 10,000 feet and figure out what we can do to address the underlying problem,” Sen. Jeff Holy, the bill’s prime sponsor, said of the bill’s effort to increase nursing educational opportunities.
Holy told the committee about 3,000 qualified applicants in the last two years were turned away from nursing education programs because of lack of capacity.
“I'm trying to get the [community and technical colleges] to coordinate this, and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to come up with a solution to fast track this, and see what we can do to expand their capacity to integrate with the four-year schools out there, so we can expand their capacity and come up with a solution in the next three to four years,” he said.
Registered Nurses is Washington state’s most in-demand profession, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department, with 2,559 job openings in February.
Anna Nikolaeva Olson, a workforce policy associate with the State Board, focused part of her testimony on the bill’s provision to 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.
“Colleges have difficulties recruiting administrators statewide, but that issue is especially felt on the rural campuses,” she said.
Nikolaeva Olson also spoke in favor of the bill’s requirement that the NCQAC count one hour of simulation lab experience as two hours of clinical placement learning.
“Securing clinical placements is a challenge, especially when our health care providers are as overextended as you've heard in testimony,” she said. “Allowing one hour of high-quality simulation to count for two hours of clinical site placement relieves some of that stress and allows for growth in programs without compromising educational outcomes for students.”
Carol O’Neal, associate dean of nursing at Grays Harbor College, emphasized the importance of simulation-based experience, especially given limited experiences students can receive in rural health care settings.
“For rural programs, simulation fills a vital learning gap. It allows faculty the ability to offer all students those essential learning experiences consistently. High-quality simulation focuses on that learning into a very concentrated and rich learning experience that needs to be recognized at a one-to-two hour ratio,” she said. “The intensity of the student's preparation for simulation and the immersion into the learning experience cannot be matched in a traditional clinical experience, in most cases.”
Tim Stokes, president of South Puget Sound Community College, told the committee that already short-staffed hospitals don’t have the capacity to take on students. Simulation labs, he said, gives students experiences that wouldn’t necessarily happen in an in-person setting.
“In speaking with two CEOs of our local hospitals, they inform me they're losing a $1 million a day because they have to have traveling nurses come in. That also impacts their ability to have our students have clinicals in their hospitals because they can't pay traveling nurse wages for preceptors at those hospitals,” he said. “We can simulate those hours in our clinical simulation center. We can do that very well. We can give a student five critical cardiac arrest experiences in an hour where that may take five or six months in a hospital.”
Coming up next week
The House is expected to release its version of the operating budget Monday and the capital budget on Tuesday. Policy committees have until Wednesday to pass bills out of their committees for those bills to continue in the legislative process.