College affordability, student support bills heard in committees one week before first cutoff
Representatives from the college system were in full-force on the hill this week as committees continued hearings ahead of next week’s policy cutoff deadline. Bills on college affordability, student support, and expanding apprenticeship opportunities were all on committee agendas.
Also heard was a bill aimed at increasing retention and graduation rates though programs like peer mentoring and Guided Pathways.
Increasing opportunities to earn a high school diploma
Jan. 25 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard testimony on SB 6248 which would expand the category of students who may receive a high school diploma from a community or technical college to include students enrolled in a statewide dropout reengagement program and individuals ages 16- to 21-years-old who aren’t enrolled in a publicly funded K-12 program.
Troy Goracke, SBCTC BEdA program administrator, said the measure provides equity for students to earn a high school diploma upon completing an associate’s degree.
“Many career paths require not only a post-secondary degree, but also a high school diploma,” Goracke said. “Holding this credential can be essential to finding employment.”
He explained that state and federal financial aid also require a diploma or its equivalent. Students who are 16 or older can earn a GED, but with this bill, students who earn an AA degree will receive the high school diploma instead.
Lionel Candido, Open Doors case manager and academic advisor, Green River College, explained that if a Running Student completes the AA degree, they automatically get a high school diploma. While other, non-Running Start, students do not. Those other students potentially would have to stay another six months to a year, take additional college work or earn a GED to move ahead in career and life.
TJ Hunkin, Green River College student, is working toward his AA degree. When he is done, he points out he will be 21-years-old, so he will be able to earn the high school diploma. However, with the restrictions currently in place — had he been younger when he graduated — he would be at a disadvantage, because employers look for the high school diploma credential.
Credit for IB exams on Senate Higher Education agenda
Jan. 25 — A bill that would create a statewide International Baccalaureate (IB) credit policy was the topic of Thursday’s Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing. The bill would require colleges and universities establish a system to grant credit to students a with passing grade on IB exams.
The Legislature passed a similar bill last session which applied to Advanced Placement test scores. Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, said this bill would do the same for IB. He said he believed a student should receive college credit for passing an IB exam with a four or higher. He also wants to create an easy-to-navigate system so students can understand how their exams would apply at colleges.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, and Matthew Campbell, vice president for learning and student success at Pierce College Puyallup, testified with concerns. Harris told the committee that colleges already have a plan in place for awarding credit for AP and IB, but it may not be course equivalent credit.
Campbell expressed concern that the bill did not differentiate between standard level IB and higher level IB courses. Standard level courses, he said, are valuable for college preparation, but do not provide the depth of content the higher level courses provide. He was also concerned that the bill would limit a college’s flexibility to award credit.
“It narrows the college’s ability to give credit in the way that’s most appropriate — in the way that is most beneficial to students,” he said. “When we’re bound by a narrow policy, we lose the flexibility to award additional credit that would help a student move more quickly toward their degree.”
Bill addressing student homelessness heard in House Higher Education
Jan. 24 — A bill that would create pilot programs at colleges and universities to plan for and accommodate homeless students was heard in the House Higher Education Committee Wednesday. Accommodations could include laundry facilities, storage, and establishing a case-manager program for assisting homeless and at-risk students. The college system would be responsible for establishing four pilot districts, two on each side of the Cascade Mountains.
Rep. Mike Sells, the bill’s prime sponsor, told his colleagues a constituent brought him the idea behind the bill.
“If I had my druthers, we wouldn’t be talking about homelessness period, but it’s a fact, and it’s a growing fact,” he said. “The question remains how do we get people from the mean streets into the main stream, and one of them, obviously, is education. But there are a lot of boundaries and things that we have to overcome to try to help them.”
“We are supportive of this bill because our colleges are striving to support homeless students. They already see the need, and they are already putting efforts in place but within the resources they currently have,” Frasier said.
She encouraged the committee to provide funding to the colleges for the work required in the bill.
Minkler told the committee Grays Harbor students partnered with the college’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Planning to survey students about issues affecting them. They found that 10 percent of Grays Harbor students are currently in an unstable housing environment.
“That’s pretty appalling,” Minkler said. “This bill addresses that. I think it’d be wonderful to be able to do a pilot to be able to really determine what it would take to help all of the homeless students we have throughout our system be successful.”
Similar measures on child care for student parents heard in House and Senate committees
Jan. 23 — The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony concerning child care for student parents in public institutions of higher education.
Committee vice chair and House Bill 2764 prime sponsor, Rep. Gerry Pollet, expressed surprise that students enrolled in AA (transfer) degree programs are not permitted to receive Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) benefits.
If enacted, the on-campus and WCCC Centers would require the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to eliminate work requirements in its rules for non-WorkFirst recipients of WCCC benefits who attend college. DEL would also revise its rules regarding the types of certificate and degree programs recipients may pursue.
Erin Frasier, SBCTC policy associate, spoke in support of the measure for increasing access to child care without additional work requirements. She also expressed some concern about capacity issues for on-campus child care centers and at the WCCC centers should the measure be enacted.
Also speaking in favor were Melissa Johnson, Washington State Association of Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP); John Hurley, Kitsap Community Resources; Maddy Thompson, Washington Student Achievement Council director of policy and government relations; and Cody Eccles, Council of Presidents director of government relations and business affairs.
Also on Jan. 23, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard Senate Bill 6100, which would expand the WCCC subsidy to students in four-year colleges and universities and also eliminates the work requirement. Currently, the subsidy is only available if students are enrolled in vocational programs.
Prime sponsor, Sen. Kevin Ranker, explained that child care helps parents finish college. “Not just go, but to finish. Child care represents a huge barrier,” he said. “Washington is one of only three states in the entire country that still imposes a work requirement for student parents.”
Erin Frasier, SBCTC policy associate, spoke in support of the bill and expressed concern about capacity issues.
Apprenticeships and college affordability topics of Senate Higher Education
Jan. 23 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee took up a bill that would expand apprenticeship programs and two bills related to college affordability at its hearing Tuesday.
The apprenticeship bill would convene a work group of members of the Legislature, industry representatives, apprenticeship model experts and agency representatives. The group’s charge would be to review existing program and recommend policies to increase the number of youth and adult apprenticeships. The bill would also establish a coordinator at the Department of Labor and Industries to provide outreach to industries and assist in creating new apprenticeships.
Sen. Kevin Ranker, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, told the committee Washington state needs to do more to support apprenticeships.
“The issue is that we as a Legislature — we as a government — need to recognize that apprenticeships are an incredible opportunity for many in our communities to move forward and have a well-paying, family-wage job in the near future,” he said.
Highlighting testimony on the bill was former ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein Suzi LeVine. LeVine served from June 2014 to January 2017. Apprenticeship programs work well, she said, when they are a priority for businesses. The stressed the same needed to be done in Washington. In Switzerland, apprenticeships are business-led and seen as a core economic and human resource strategy.
“Businesses are creators, not consumers, of talent,” LeVine said.
Peter Guzman, a workforce policy associate with the State Board, testified in favor of the bill. He praised the bill’s effort to involve industry and advocated for the apprenticeship model as a crucial part of developing the workforce.
“Apprentices can benefit a great deal from the earn-and-learn model, helping them toward self-sufficiency in high-wage fields as well as setting on a path toward post-secondary credential attainment,” he said.
The committee took up two bills on college affordability: one would expand the State Need Grant to 100 percent of the median family income from the current 70 percent. It would also appropriate $206 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year to cover eligible students.
Sen. Ranker, the bill’s prime sponsor, said expanding the State Need Grant is a topic he repeatedly hears from constituents.
“We know that this program works. We know that these students will better not just themselves, but our communities and our state if they have this access and this support,” he said.
Ruben Flores, a student services policy associate with the State Board, Daniela Suarez, legislative intern for the State Board and a student at South Puget Sound Community College, and Ashleigh DeBuse, a student at South Puget Sound Community College and its student body president, testified in favor of the bill. Suarez and DeBuse are both State Need Grant recipients.
“Out of graduating high school, I knew that I was ready for college, but, however, I was not ready for the cost of college,” Suarez said. “The State Need Grant is vital, and its purpose is to help students plan every single year to see what they can expect from state dollars.”
DeBuse told senators she was not eligible for financial aid, nor could her family support her financially. She worked at a minimum wage job for seven years before having saved enough money to afford to go to college.
“I am only here today because I have received funds through the federal Pell Grant, a scholarship through the college foundation, and I am a recipient of the State Need Grant,” she said. “My story is mild by comparison to some of those of the students that I represent.”
Finally, the committee took up a bill that would freeze resident undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities for the 2018-19 academic year at the 2017-18 levels. Sen. Marco Liias, the bill’s prime sponsor, said his bill is about affordability.
“The reality is our state’s unfortunate and systematic disinvestment from higher education from 2007 to 2012 is what’s driven a huge chuck of the student loan crisis that we have,” he said. “When I was looking at colleges, I looked at the University of Washington back in 1999. At that time, the state paid about three-quarters of the cost of attendance and students were responsible for about a quarter. Today, those numbers are almost reversed. I think it’s time to have a conversation about affordability.”
John Boesenberg, deputy executive director for business operations with the State Board, thanked senators for the bill. He also hoped the Legislature would backfill the amount that would have come from next year’s scheduled increase since that money has been partially committed to employee salary increases.
“We understand that tuition costs, as they increase, represent a barrier to our students who are especially price-sensitive,” he said.
Evidence shows promise in student support programs
Jan. 23 — The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony in favor of House Bill 1651 which supports college and university student success and aims to increase retention and graduation rates with a variety of evidence-based programs and support services. Among these are peer mentoring, Guided Pathways, college success skills classes, combined remedial- and college-level programs like I-BEST.
Michele Johnson, Pierce College District chancellor, thanked the committee for its commitment to student success and its investment in initiatives like the Guided Pathways pilot program.
“What we know we need to do is provide support services,” Johnson said. “It’s not a program. It’s a framework. It’s rethinking all the ways we support all students to be successful.”
She described the elements of Guided Pathways, which include grouping programs and majors into six broad career pathways; helping students choose a path with good advising; providing orientation and college success classes; keeping students on the path with supplemental instruction, tutoring and financial aid; and identifying the necessary course content and outcomes for students to succeed in the workplace and advance to higher levels of education.
“It’s more than programs like I-BEST or TRiO. It’s a wholesale look at how we do things.” Johnson said. “For example, getting rid of the $15 testing fee and $25 application fee, which we found were enough to keep students out. It’s early alert systems for when students are struggling and re-doing our websites.”
Jan Yoshiwara, SBCTC executive director, thanked the committee for expanding IBEST, investing in MESA and funding Guided Pathways pilots at several colleges. “These are all evidence-based practices to improve successful transition into successful completion of degrees, especially for underrepresented, low-income and first-generation college students,” she explained.
“The challenge for us is that we want to take these innovations to scale, because we want to increase retention and completion for all of our students across the state, not just cohorts of students,” Yoshiwara said. “Scaling up these proven practices is what we really need in the college system to substantially change completion rates for all of our students across the state.”
Maddy Thompson, WSAC director of policy and government relations, spoke in support of this bill and other efforts, as they relate to helping the state meet educational attainment goals set forth in the Roadmap, the state’s ten-year plan.
Demi Michelau, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), spoke in support, explaining how the colleges’ programs and policy efforts (such as Guided Pathways, child care, MESA), dovetail with the findings in the most recent 2017 Regional Educational Needs Assessment.
The report found that while each community has different challenges and requires different solutions, five universal themes — or areas of challenge — showed up around the state: soft skills and communication, college and career guidance, career exploration opportunities, healthcare and teaching shortages, and child care.
Several University of Washington representatives also spoke in support of the measure.
The committee also heard testimony on HB 2801 which would implement a tracking and early alert system to improve student success at community and technical colleges, sponsored by Rep. Melanie Stambaugh.
Michele Johnson, Pierce College District chancellor, explained that tracking and early alert is an important part of Guided Pathways. For that effort, the college received funds to purchase a software program called Starfish, which includes an early alert component, in addition to academic planning and case management.
“When you’re working with 10,000 students per quarter, this is one more way to make connections,” Johnson said.
Jan Yoshiwara expressed appreciation that the system would be subject to appropriation, given the level of resource it would require, and noting the college system has a good track record of recognizing savings when making purchases as a consortium.
Bill including part-time employees in state civil service heard in House committee
Jan. 23 — The House State Government, Elections and Information Technology Committee took up a bill Tuesday that would include part-time employees in Washington state’s civil service. The exemption would affect part-time employees at community colleges since those employees fall under Civil Service Law. Currently, the civil service board defines a part-time employee as one who works up to 1,050 hours in a 12-month-period. Employees are also included in bargaining units after they’ve worked 350 hours in a year. If this bill passes, any part-time employee would be included in state civil service upon hire.
Rep. Beth Doglio, the bill’s prime sponsor, testified that the bill is about providing the same benefits of a full-time employee to part-time employees.
“It’s difficult to find part-time work that actually provides for your family and make sure that you have the safety net in place that we all need,” she said.
In preparation for the hearing, McCallister asked colleges how this bill, if enacted, would affect their operation.
“The feedback indicated they were all opposed to this bill due to the additional layers of bureaucracy and added cost,” he said. “Most likely, this may result in hiring fewer part-time employees, ultimately impairing services to our prime customers: the students.”
Williamson told committee members of the important role part-time employees play on campuses. They fill roles in areas like tutoring, security, child care centers, and maintenance.
“Many of these individuals who are currently our part-time employees provide support directly to education,” she said.
Williamson estimated the impact would be about $12,000 per person per year.
Promoting pre-apprenticeship opportunities for high school students
Jan. 22 — The House Education Committee heard support for House Bill 2685, which would coordinate efforts to promote pre-apprenticeship opportunities for high school students.
The program would bring together the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, SBCTC and the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council to explore opportunities to promote pre-apprenticeship opportunities for high school students and college graduates.
Among the strategies proposed are finding ways to improve alignment between college-level vocational courses, high school curriculum, and high school graduation requirements and to identify and remove barriers to high school students and graduating college students pursuing pre-apprenticeship opportunities.
Prime sponsor Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, said the bill aims to meet the needs of all students — not just those attending four-year colleges and universities — and to better align vocational programs and courses.
“A lot of times, students don’t take these courses because they don’t know how it would fit in with their schedule,” Ortiz-Self said, explaining students aren’t aware they can earn dual community college and high school credit for career and technical education courses. “If a student wants to be a welder and go to a community college for classes, they should be able to do that [and earn credit, just like Running Start students].”
Peter Guzman, SBCTC workforce education policy associate, said apprenticeship is an ideal pathway for many of Washington’s youth to help them toward self-sufficiency in high-wage fields and set them on a path toward post-secondary education.
The system and its partners are already working on how to increase earn and learn models for high school students, Guzman said, citing Bates Technical College’s and Yakima Valley College’s partnership with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Council (AJAC). The group has launched a first-ever youth registered apprenticeship program in aerospace production technician program in the Tacoma Public School District and West Valley High School, Yakima.
Tim Knue, Washington Association for Career and Technical Education executive director, spoke in support of the measure.
Coming up next week
Committees will continue their work next week ahead of the first policy cutoff of the 2018 session. Bills in policy committees need to be voted out of those committees by the end of the day Feb. 2 in order to continue in the legislative process. Surviving bills with fiscal implications will head to their house's fiscal committees, while policy-only bills head to their chamber's rules committees to be scheduled for a full vote.
The system-requested bill that would include state residents who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent in the Caseload Forecast Council's forecasting is up for a hearing in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee's hearing Tuesday.