College system-supported bills moving as session passes last committee cutoff
Tuesday marked the last committee cutoff of the 2023 legislative session, when bills with a fiscal impact needed to be voted out of those committees in order to continue in the legislative process. For the community and technical college system, bills on Running Start, nursing education, data sharing and College in the High School moved out of fiscal committees.
On the House floor, representatives on Wednesday passed an amended version of the bill that would make permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program. The House this afternoon also unanimously passed the nursing education bill. Floor debate will be covered in next week's Legislative News.
Ways and Means approves Running Start expansion bill
March 31 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday passed the bill that would expand access to Running Start. 2SHB 1316 states that every school district, charter school and state-tribal education compact school must allow eligible students to participate in Running Start. After an amendment by the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Committee, it would also fund students up to a combined maximum enrollment of 1.4 FTE instead of the current 1.2 FTE annually and allow participation during summer quarter. Before the amendment, the bill would have provided a combined maximum of 1.6 FTE.
"Through the support of federal and state dollars, students have been able to save time and money by utilizing this funding to recover credits and to complete their degrees before transferring to university. Additionally, more students have been able to pursue workforce degrees that require summer enrollment,” Jamie Traugott, director of dual credit and K-12 alignment for the State Board, said.
She also asked the committee consider revising the bill back to the original 1.6 combined maximum FTE.
“Currently, 87% of the Running Starts students full-time at our colleges and many enroll in a high school course leaving only enough summer funding to cover three credits. Most courses that meet degree-in-high-school requirements are five credits and some science courses with labs are six,” she said. “Adjusting back to the 1.6 FTE ensures that we stop perpetuating the inequities that currently exist for students that don't have the financial means to pay for summer tuition.”
Sopeara Chay, a Running Start student at South Puget Sound Community College, told committee members the bill would make the program more affordable.
“I am in my last year Running Start, and this program has still not covered the summer quarter, which you need to take an order to graduate in the two years that they give you for your degree,” she said. “This difference in tuition prices can discourage students from getting these dual credits, and this bill covers these summer quarter costs.”
Lupe Rodriguez, Running Start director at Lower Columbia College, said the college served over 100 students in summer Running Start, 92% of whom had a passing rate of a C or better.
“This bill would continue to have a positive impact for students, and continue to provide equitable access and opportunity to many students who would not typically be able to attend in the summer quarter due the cost of tuition and fees, as it could cause financial hardships for their families without this amazing opportunity,” she said.
Elinor Hall, a Running Start student at Whatcom Community College, said the program changed her life.
“Earning my associate degree through Running Start has made college education a real possibility. For many in my position, those who are passionate about their education without the financial means to consider college education as a given, Running Start has made this once lofty goal a reality,” she said. “The continuation of this program through the summer would enhance this endeavor to the next level, providing motivated students without means with the opportunity to push towards this historically unreachable goal.”
Michele Cruz, vice president of student services at Clark College, testified that the college retained a significant number of students who participated in summer Running Start into the fall quarter.
“This opportunity has removed a lot of financial barriers for our students who are pursuing [professional-technical] programs by funding their summer quarter,” she said. “Support of summer Running Start increases attainment or completion of high school diplomas, increased credentials and degree attainment, resulting in more students transferring and completing degrees at a four-year institution, also decreasing the time and cost to degree attainment.”
Jason Boatwright, dean of instruction at Clover Park Technical College, told the committee that students can complete an associate degree in as few as six quarters, including summer quarter.
“The exclusion of summer quarter from the Running Start program has been a significant deterrent to students pursuing their professional-technical degrees while in high school,” he said. “By completing a professional-technical degree, students can graduate from high school and college simultaneously, all while becoming career ready.”
House Appropriations approves data sharing bill
March 31 — The House Appropriations Committee on Monday voted to approve 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. The committee heard testimony on 2SSB 5593 at its March 31 hearing.
“Ensuring high school students have access to the full range of their postsecondary options, including workforce programs and academic transfer programs, just simply makes smart policy sense for Washington,” Christine McMullin, a student services policy associate with the State Board, said.
College in the High School fee elimination, nursing education bills pass House Appropriations
April 1 — The House Appropriations Committee approved on Tuesday two community and technical college system-supported bills — one that would eliminate College in the High School fees and another that addresses nursing education. The committee heard testimony on both bills at its Saturday hearing.
Under 2SSB 5048, if funded, 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. Under an amendment adopted by the Appropriations Committee, community and technical colleges would be reimbursed to $300 per student, up to $3,500 per course.
“This is a great bill meeting students where they are in their high school for dual credit opportunities,” Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board said. “This is college level learning in the high school.”
Harris also spoke in favor of the nursing education bill. 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.
“This bill, along with the investment in your operating budget in nursing enrollments for 200 FTEs across our college system, will help your colleges step up to address the nursing shortages in our state,” he said. The proposed House operating budget includes funding for 200 additional nursing enrollments, 100 for each year of the biennium.
Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness bill passes House
April 5 — The House on Wednesday passed the bill that would make permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness program. Receiving a 59-39 vote, ESSB 5702 would open program participation to all public colleges and universities.
The bill was amended by the House Appropriations Committee to remove the provision allowing participating community and technical colleges to be able to apply for grant funding to subsidize housing or a housing voucher program. The amended bill also removes the tribal college as an eligible participant in the program.
“We often talk about in this body, especially this year, the important efforts that we're making on workforce challenges. And in order to do that, we need students to complete these important programs and get out to the fields where they are needed the most — in health care, behavioral health, education — and we can't do that if we're not providing any critical wraparound services for our students for them to be successful,” Rep. Mari Leavitt said.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for it to concur on the amended bill.
Coming up next week
House and Senate floor action continues until Wednesday at 5 p.m., when session reaches its opposite house floor cutoff deadline. The remainder of session will see negotiations and votes on bills amended by the opposite chamber, as well as final budget proposals.