Community and technical college system budget request will help fill jobs, grow the economy
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges on Wednesday approved a budget request designed to create the diverse talent pool needed to fill thousands of jobs and grow the economy. The plan is expected to produce at least 15,000 more graduates over the next two years.
The $200 million request seeks $154 million in new investments to increase the number of students who earn certificates and degrees. Another $46 million in maintenance funding would cover current operations and inflation.
“Our state has thousands of openings in solid, well-paying jobs that require exactly the type of education offered at community and technical colleges,” said State Board Chair Shaunta Hyde. “Professionals like firefighters, computer technicians, nurses, commercial drivers and dental hygienists are the backbone of our communities and our economy.”
Gary Oertli, president of South Seattle College and chair of the community and technical college presidents’ association, said two-year colleges provide one of the few bridges to the middle class left in America.
“There’s a powerful and direct link between education and income. The state breaks that link for everyday working families in Washington — especially those with low incomes and people of color — when it underfunds community and technical colleges,” he said.
At the core of the request is a plan to create “guided pathways” at each college to increase student retention and completion rates. Guided pathways place students on clear and intentional paths through college based on skills, interests and goals, as well as job prospects. Students receive intense advising along the way. Like airport runway lights, guided pathways provide a clear route through course offerings to credentials that match the expectations of employers or universities.
The request also includes more funding for I-BEST, a nationally recognized program that uses a team-teaching approach to teach students basic skills in the context of real work situations. It also calls for expanding the number of students who receive Opportunity Grants. The grants help low-income students train for careers in high-demand fields.
The budget request seeks additional investments in teaching and learning through increased faculty and staff salaries and the transition of more part-time faculty into full-time positions.
Additional safety measures for students, employees and college visitors are also included in the request.
The State Board also approved a $338 million capital budget request intended to ease a backlog of capital projects so students can learn in modern, well-maintained buildings that meet their educational needs. The request includes funding for construction at Edmonds, Whatcom, Big Bend, Spokane, Highline, and Clover Park colleges.
In addition, the request includes design work for new projects at Wenatchee, Olympic, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, South Seattle, Bates, Shoreline, Spokane Falls, Clark, Everett, Grays Harbor, North Seattle, Walla Walla and Cascadia colleges.
As projects are funded, others move up in the waiting list for future capital budget requests.
The budget requests come at a time when community and technical colleges and four-year universities continue to struggle from past budget cuts, stagnant funding, and cost-shifts from the state to colleges.
“A basic K-12 education just isn’t enough for people to land good jobs in today’s
economy. They need cradle-to-career education,” said Jon Lane, president of the Washington
State Association of College Trustees and a trustee at Big Bend Community College.
“If funding for higher education stands still, we all drift back.”
The proposals, which include all 34 community and technical colleges, now go to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature for consideration. The Legislature convenes in January to write the state’s next two-year operating and capital budgets.