Legislative Week in Review

COP staff spent much of rainy week two of the legislative session giving presentations to policymakers. On Tuesday, Executive Director Paul Francis presented to the Senate Higher Education Committee on our joint agenda with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Independent Colleges of Washington, Washington Competes. That was followed by brief presentations by our legislative directors on the operating and capital budget priorities for each respective campus. Members noted items of consistent need in institutional requests, including student support services, STEM/high demand programs, student financial aid, and investments in quality.

Key challenges for Washington include:

  • Below average funding for public colleges and universities
  • Low high school graduation rates
  • Low 4-year college participation rates
  • Persistent gaps between degree production and employer demand in key fields

On Thursday morning Paul Francis presented to the House Education Committee on the ways in which COP and our colleges and universities interact with the K-12 system in Washington state. Key areas of focus include teacher preparation, dual/concurrent enrollment, postsecondary outreach and access, high school graduation/college entrance alignment, and prevention/early awareness programs. Other organizations and agencies also presented, including the Department of Early Learning and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Also on Thursday COP Director of Policy and Academic Affairs Julie Garver presented on the work of the Accelerated Degree Programs Work Group established in the 2016 supplemental operating budget. Policymakers directed the Work Group to study the benefits, challenges, and best practices surrounding accelerated degree programs and report back their findings and recommendations. The Work Group identified four best practices:

  • Accelerated degree pathways must be either institutional or sector led.
  • Accelerated degree pathways should be considered one of many pathways students may pursue to earn a degree.
  • Communication with students should be clear both about the presence and requirements of accelerated degree pathways.
  • Cohort models should be considered in the design and implementation of accelerated degree pathways.

All our presentation materials and testimony are available online at:  http://www.councilofpresidents.org/index-3_issues.html

COP staff also testified on pertinent legislation in both the House and Senate.  Next week the House Higher Education Committee will hold hearings on legislation concerning faculty compensation, student financial aid, and student loan debt. The Senate Higher Education Committee will hear bills related to teacher preparation programs, student financial literacy, student loans, and workforce development. The committee will also receive updates on WSU’s recently created Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the UW’s WWAMI Medical Education Program expansion in Spokane, and an update from the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board on their Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Strategic Action Plan.

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