Week Five in Review

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.

Week Four In Review

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!

Week Three Recap

Three weeks into the legislative session and the calendar is already turning to February. The flurry of activity continued by COP staff with additional presentations, legislative meetings, and committee testimony. On Tuesday, Executive Director Paul Francis presented before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Washington’s nationally recognized public four-year dashboard. Created in 2011 with the passage of House Bill 1795, the dashboard endorsed the ten progress and outcome metrics from the National Governors Association’s 2010 Complete to Complete initiative.

Following Mr. Francis, the presidents of CWU, EWU, Evergreen, UW, WWU joined the provost of WSU in discussing how recent state investments in STEM/high demand education and student success initiatives have helped to improve student access to those programs. Campus leaders also highlighted the need for stable and predictable long-term funding – as well as needed investments in the State Need Grant and other state student financial aid programs – which will help to meet workforce needs and close our skill gap. The presentation also provided an opportunity for campuses to highlight their 2017-19 operating and capital budget priorities.

Also on Tuesday COP held its legislative reception in Olympia. This annual event provides an opportunity for Washington state’s public baccalaureate leaders to thank policymakers for their support of postsecondary education as well as to promote current objectives to state leaders. COP Chair and WSU President Kirk Schulz thanked those in attendance for their support of higher education and noted the current collaboration between Washington’s public and private four- and two-year colleges and universities. In addition to members of the House and Senate, we were joined by leaders from myriad partner education agencies and organizations.

COP staff also testified on legislation in both the House and Senate related to student financial aid, student financial literacy, and student loan debt. The Senate Higher Education Committee also received an updated on the accreditation and admission timeline for WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine as well as the UW’s WWAMI medical education program expansion in Spokane.

Committee action continues next week with work sessions in the Senate on student textbooks, teaching requirements for faculty, student loan debt, and trends in the cost of room and board. Hearings in both higher education committees will cover topics including student financial aid, for-profit college regulation, and workforce programs.

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

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.

First Week of Legislative Session Kicks Off

The 2017 legislative session kicked off this past Monday. Council of Presidents staff hit the ground running with a number of meetings with policymakers and staff. Those meetings afford us the opportunity to highlight our joint 2017 legislative agenda with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Independent Colleges of Washington – Washington Competes.

On Tuesday representatives from the Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force – staffed by COP – presented to the House Higher Ed Committee on their work over the past 18 months. Panelists spoke about the work related to both prevention and response, organized through seven subcommittees and leading to three reports to policymakers.

COP staff also participated on a panel to discuss the work of the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Higher Education Task Force created in HB 1138 (2015). Meeting materials are available here and a video archive of the work session is available here.

On Thursday the Senate Higher Ed Committee – under the leadership of new Chair Senator Lynda Wilson – heard from the Washington Roundtable on their recent report – “Washington Kids 4 Washington Jobs”. According to the report, there will be 740,000 job openings in our state in the next five years. The majority of those jobs will require some postsecondary education or training.

Also on Wednesday the newly statewide elected officials – including State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal – were sworn in. Governor Inslee also gave his state of the state speech, focusing the majority of it on K-12 education.

Legislative committees have already begun hearing bills in the respective policy committees; we expect that to pick up next week as policymakers consider legislation related to student financial aid, student loan debt, educational programs for incarcerated adults, and more. On Tuesday morning, January 17 COP staff will present on our Washington Competes proposal to the Senate Higher Ed Committee. Our legislative directors will then highlight session priorities for each of the public baccalaureates that complement Washington Competes.

U.S. House Committee Passes Spending Bill

Las week the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed an education funding bill for fiscal year 2017. The action comes one month after the Senate unveiled an education funding bill.

Pell Grant

Unlike the Senate bill, the House would not restore year-round Pell Grants, but like the Senate, the Pell Grant maximum award is projected at $5,935 for AY 2017-18, an increase of $120, which is subject to change based on fluctuations in inflation, as defined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Finally, the House bill allocates the lowest overall dollar amount to the Pell Grant Program since FY 2010 and represents a decrease of $1.3 billion from FY 2016.

Other Provisions

The House bill includes a number of other provisions.

  • Level-funding for FY 2017 for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS)
  • A $60 million increase in funding for TRIO Programs
  • An increase in funding of $1.25 billion over FY 2016 levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Several higher education policy provisions, including provisions to block the gainful employment, teacher preparation program, credit hour, and state authorization regulations.

The bill will next be considered by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (“Labor-H”) Appropriations Subcommittee.

U. S. Senators Introduce Dual Credit Bill

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced legislation last week to give more high school students the opportunity to take career and technical education college courses that can help prepare them for success in the 21st century. The Workforce Advance Act will help strengthen and expand dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school options as part of Perkins-supported career technical education (CTE) programs. Strong CTE programs can provide vital access to the knowledge and skills needed for job and career success.

The Workforce Advance Act encourages states to examine how they can expand access to CTE dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school courses. The bill would:

  • Allow states to invest leadership dollars in expanding access and supporting teachers and districts to increase the number of courses offered,
  • Encourage districts to strengthen CTE programs by incorporating college credit opportunities,
  • Use a portion of the funding they receive through the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for tuition and fees for CTE college courses and use funding to support teachers pursuing the credentials needed to teach these courses in their high schools, helping to remove a barrier to providing access to college credit, and
  • Allow the Department of Education to use national CTE activities to help identify successful methods and best practices for providing dual or concurrent enrollment programs and early college high school career and technical education opportunities.