COP staff braved all the elements in Olympia this week – snow, torrential rain, and wind – during our trips to the state Capitol.
On Tuesday nearly 200 high school and college students from public and private four and two-year colleges and universities descended on Olympia from around the state to advocate for increased funding for the State Need Grant. Currently, nearly 24,000 students qualify for but do not receive the grant due to a lack of available funding. Nearly 10,000 of those students attend one of the public four-year institutions. This can result in increased time to degree and larger debt loads upon graduation. Fully funding the State Need Grant is also a component of our Washington Competes agenda as well a 2017 legislative priority for the Washington Student Achievement Council.
On Wednesday COP joined our partners in welcoming new WSAC Executive Director Michael Meotti and thanked OSPI representative Gil Mendoza for his outstanding service as a member of the Council. During the meeting the Council received an update from OFM Director David Schumacher on Governor Inslee’s 2017-19 operating and capital budget proposals.
On Thursday COP Executive Director Paul Francis, UW Police Chief John Vinson, SBCTC Director of Student Services Joe Holliday, and UW Deputy Title IX/ADA Coordinator Amanda Paye presented on the 18-month effort of the Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force to members of the Senate Higher Education Committee. Details on the Task Force’s work are available at: http://www.councilofpresidents.org/safewacampus.html.
COP staff also continues to testify on a number of important pieces of legislation in both House and Senate committees.
Next Friday, February 17 is the deadline for bills to pass out of their respective policy committees. Therefore, policy committees will be extremely active with executive action sessions. The House Higher Education Committee will also hear legislation related to the disciplinary process at private institutions of higher education. The Senate Higher Education Committee will take up legislation related to campus sexual violence, eligibility for the State Need Grant program, and student veterans.
Fiscal committee agendas are also filling up given the quickly the approaching deadline for bills to pass out of their respective fiscal committees.
This week groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which, according to legend, signifies six more weeks of winter. Fortunately, we were blessed with some beautiful sunny days in Olympia this week during the fourth week of the 2017 legislative session.
In addition to testimony on legislation related to student textbooks and Advanced Placement exam credit, COP staff helped to organize a number of work sessions this week on textbooks, faculty workload, and student housing costs. Work sessions provide a terrific opportunity for policymakers and staff to learn more about how we serve students and strive to fulfill our missions as public colleges and universities.
We’re very proud to work with some outstanding faculty and student representatives in Olympia. This past Wednesday we came together to discuss how we can continue to collaborate on efforts to lower textbook costs, expand student financial aid, and more. We will continue to regularly connect with our student and faculty colleagues throughout session and beyond.
We were extremely pleased to welcome more than 30 public four-year and community and technical college trustees to Olympia yesterday for Regents and Trustees Days. Regents and trustees met with approximately 25 legislators from both parties as well as some of our statewide elected officials to discuss how policymakers can continue to expand opportunities for all Washingtonians to access postsecondary education and help to grow our economy. Of particular focus were the 24,000 eligible but unserved students who qualify for the State Need Grant. We know from past research that student financial aid helps to lower a student’s debt load as well as help move students toward a credential in a timely manner. These meetings also gave regents and trustees the opportunity to highlight our 2017 shared higher education agenda, Washington Competes.
Committee hearings will ramp up next week as we approach the first cutoff for policy bills to be passed out of their committee of origin. The House Higher Education Committee will hear bills related to mental health and suicide, services and activities fees, student support services, and student financial aid. The Senate Higher Education Committee will hold a work session on the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) Program as well as receive an updated on the Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force staffed by COP. Stay tuned!