Governor Inslee Signs Legislation to Ease Transition for Student Veterans

This afternoon Governor Inslee signed into law two pieces of legislation that will ease the transition from military service to higher education.

Senate Bill 5318 removes the one-year waiting period for veterans or active members of the military for purposes of eligibility for resident tuition and Senate Bill 5969 provides for awarding academic credit for military training.

Governor Signs Legislation to Improve Business Practices and Reporting for Higher Education

This afternoon Governor Inslee signed into law legislation to make changes to business practices resulting in greater efficiency and effectiveness for Washington’s public baccalaureate institutions and community and technical colleges (HB 2613).

The bill provides higher education institutions permissive authority to prorate paychecks for faculty on nine-month appointments and change payroll frequency from semi-monthly to biweekly and makes changes to existing reporting requirements.

The Governor will also sign a series of education-related bills later this week including legislation to place in statute the education attainment goals in the Washington Student Achievement Council’s ten-year roadmap (HB 2626) and create a legislative work group to ensure the College Bound program is viable, productive and effective (HB 6436).

Hundreds of TRiO Students Convene at Evergreen; Elected Officials Engage Students

Throughout the day high school and college students from across Washington could be seen crossing The Evergreen State College campus to to engage with elected officials and workshop speakers at the Washington State TRiO Conference.

The morning opened with a welcome address by President Purce who introduced the opening keynote U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-6th). Kilmer spoke to his own journey and encouraged the audience to be engaged in their education and communities.

Students spent the remainder of the morning participating in break-out sessions on a range of topics such as civic leadership, selecting and financing the right college, and internships.

The lunch hour was focused on remarks by Washington State Representative Chris Reykdal (22nd District). Reykdal spoke to his personal story and pathway. He encouraged students to speak up and participate in their communities. In addition students heard from Luis Ortega, Founder of Power to Define who spoke of the importance and value of education.The day closed out with a legislative panel of state leaders including Representatives Kathy Haigh (35th District), Hans Zeiger (25th District), Sam Hunt (22nd District) and JT Wilcox (2nd District).  The panel addressed the question, As a state representative you have the ability to influence policy and legislation that directly affect the K-12 and higher education system. If you could see into the future what are you greatest hopes and fears for the state of education. How will the students in this audience be affected by either possible outcome?  The panelists spoke to the value of engagement by students in the legislative process and the importance of participating at the local, state and national levels. The panel took questions from the audience ranging from internships to concerns about the number of young people in the prison system.

The day concluded with closing remarks from U.S. Representative Denny Heck (WA-10th). Heck spoke of his own commitment to service and expressed the need for young people to find what drives them and to share their passions.

Legislature Sine Die; Final Actions of the 2014 Supplemental Session

The Washington State Legislature ended the 2014 supplemental session this evening. The Legislature formerly sine die around 11:30 p.m.

The Legislature began work this morning and spent a long day moving the budget and a series of bills. Among the bills advanced to the Governor’s desk was legislation to provide in-state tuition for veterans (SB 5318).

Early in the evening the House  (85-13) and Senate (48-1) passed the supplemental operating budget.

Despite the passage of an operating budget and several bills the Legislature was unable to reach agreement on a supplemental capital budget.

 

 

Legislature Advances Conference Budget

This afternoon the Washington Legislature released a final conference supplemental operating budget.

The final supplemental operating budget would boost the state’s $33.6 billion dollar budget by approximately $155.1 million. Of the $155.1 million over half  ($89.2 million) is associated with changes to maintenance level caseloads and adjustments based on current law requirements. This includes $12 million for higher than anticipated College Bound enrollments. The remainder ($65.9 million) is focused on net policy enhancements and increases including $5 million for the State Need Grant due to the passage of the Real Hope Act and approximately $25 million for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Higher Education

The supplemental budget proposed by the Legislature supports the investment made in higher education in the 2013-15 biennial budget.

The budget makes a handful of investments in higher education including $5 million for the State Need Grant which was expanded under the Real Hope Act, $25 million to expand Opportunity Scholarships available and match the additional private contributions received, restores State Need Grants for students attending for-profit institutions and indicates intent in the next biennium to reconsider grant awards for students at private four-year institutions.

In addition the budget includes language for  the Washington State Auditor to conduct an audit of the use of dedicated local and operating fee accounts by Washington’s public higher education institutions and the Education Research and Data Center to collect and publish short-term and long-term earnings and employment data for completers of higher education degrees.

The budget also reduces funds for higher education institutions as part of the savings attained through LEAN management strategies. The biennial budget passed last summer required all state agencies, including higher education institutions, to attain LEAN management savings of $30 million. Higher education’s portion of this reduction was approximately $2.1 million. Evergreen’s portion of this reduction was $72,000 in FY15. The conference budget advanced today increases this savings required of agencies to $40 million.

The budget also extends the tuition freeze for the first half of the biennium to the second year of the biennium.

Finally the budget provides for a series of investments to institutions including $2 million to expand enrollments in compute science and engineering for Central Washington and Eastern Washington Universities, $1 million for the University of Washington’s Institute of Protein Design, $410,000 for the MESA community college program, $350,000 for a pilot project to embed the year up model within community college campuses, and $750,000 for Washington State University to pursue Jet Fuels research.

Final Week of Supplemental Session

This week marks the last days of the 2014 supplemental session. Focused on advancing bills to the Governor’s desk and moving forward a conference operating and capital budget, the Legislature is putting in long days and nights.

The 2014 supplemental session is scheduled to end on Thursday, March 13. While as of the writing of this blog there is no final conference budget, the Senate and House are in the process of advancing a handful of higher education related policy bills to the Governor’s desk.

  • Senate Bill 5969: Requires each public higher education institution to adopt a policy to award academic credit for military training courses or programs and to provide a copy of the policy to enrolled students who have listed prior or present military service in their application. Senate President has signed.
  • Senate Bill 6358: Ensures that colleges and universities clearly disseminate their financial policies to students. Delivered to the Governor.
  • Senate Bill 6436: Creates a College Bound Scholarship Work Group consisting of legislators and stakeholders to make recommendations for making the program viable. The Work Group must submit their report to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31 2014. Senate concurred in House amendments.
  • House Bill 1669: Requires public baccalaureate institutions to provide notification to students prior to changing a degree program that is supported by state funding to a self-supporting, fee-based program and requires the establishment of a committee to evaluate a proposed shift from a state-funded degree program to a self-supporting, fee-based program. Passed Senate.
  • House Bill 2612: Authorizes the Board to elect to have the Washington State Investment Board invest funds in the scholarship and endowment accounts and requires WASAC to manage the Opportunity Scholarship Match Transfer Account. House concurred in Senate amendments.
  • House Bill 2613: Changes to business practices resulting in greater efficiency and effectiveness for Washington’s public baccalaureate institutions. House asks Senate to recede amendment.
  • House Bill 2626:  Acknowledges the recommendations in the higher education ten-year Roadmap, the Legislature is encouraged by WSAC’s efforts to meet the following two educational attainment goals in order to meet the societal and economic needs of the future: (1) All adults in Washington ages 25 to 44 will have a high school diploma or equivalent by 2023; and (2) At least 70 percent of Washington adults ages 25 to 44 will have a postsecondary credential by 2023. Passed the Senate.

In addition the Legislature is advancing legislation that impacts higher education in its role as a state agency.

  • House Bill 1841: Allows for electronic signatures for public works contracts. Delivered to the Governor
  • House Bill 2105: Requires public agencies with governing bodies to post meeting agendas online at least 24 hours in advance of regular meetings and exempts agencies without websites or that employ fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees from posting agendas online. Delivered to the Governor.
  • House Bill 2208: Increases the percent that can be self performed by the GC/CM from 30% to 50% for heavy civil construction projects. Delivered to the Governor.
  • House Bill 2555: Building performance goals and validation requirements are required in the requests for proposals that the public body issues for Design Build services. Design Build proposals are exempt from disclosure until the highest scoring finalist has been selected, rather than when a contract agreement has been executed. House concurred in Senate amendments.
  • House Bill 2724: Creates an exemption from the Public Records Act for certain information regarding archeological resources and traditional cultural places obtained by certain agencies, or shared between certain agencies or with tribes. House concurred in Senate amendments.
  • Senate Bill 5964: Requires training for members of a governing body of a public agency on the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act,local and statewide elected officials and public records and agency records retention officers on the requirements of the Public Records Act and records retention/destruction procedures. Senate President signed.

President Obama Release FY15 Budget: Higher Education Impacts

Yesterday President Obama released a proposal for funding the federal government for FY15. The proposal would make several changes to higher education.

The request would provide level-funding for most student aid programs and basic research programs, but would provide funding for several ambitious new higher education proposals.

The budget would maintain discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program at the same level as last year.  This will allow the maximum award to jump by $100 to $5,830 because of an automatic, mandatory increase in funding. With regard to the Pell Grant the budget also issues a call to “strengthen academic progress requirements in the Pell Grant program to encourage students to complete their studies on time” and restores a pathway to Pell Grants for students who don’t have a high school diploma or GED.

The budget also makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit and makes changes to federal financial aid programs.

The more daring proposals include:

  • College Opportunity and Graduation Bonuses (10-year budget, $7 billion):  The program would reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate significant numbers of low- and moderate-income students on time, and encourage all institutions to boost performance by providing grants to institutions based on their number of on-time Pell graduates. Institutions would be allowed to use these funds to expand need-based financial aid, enhance student instruction and support strategies, and adopt other best practices to increase college access and success for low-income students.
  • State Higher Education Performance Fund ($4 billion): A competitive state grant, these funds would support systemic efforts to reform and improve the performance of public higher education systems and make college more affordable, especially for low-income students.
  • First in the World ($100 million): Building on the 2014 competition, the budget increases funding to support innovative strategies and practices shown to be effective in improving educational outcomes and making college more affordable for students and families.
  • College Success Grants ($75 million): A competition that would support sustainable strategies to reduce costs and improve student outcomes through awards to Historically Black Colleges or Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Expansion: Extend PAYE to all student borrowers, regardless of when they borrowed. The budget also would reform PAYE to safeguard the program for the future and ensure that program benefits are targeted to the neediest borrowers.

The President’s budget is largely a political document. Congress has already set budget levels for federal spending. Senate Democrats have commented that they will not produce a budget but will instead directly allocate funding program by program. The House Republicans have indicated their budget proposal will be released later this month.

House Higher Education Committee Discusses Interim Work

The House Higher Education Committee met this morning for a work session focused on the Interim and next steps.

Members of the Committee shared their thoughts about the session and concepts and potential legislation they would bring forward in the next biennium. Among the issues and ideas expressed was support for further work on the concept of Pay It Forward, concern about the increasing cost of education highlighting student debt and increasing costs at the institutions, support for continuing the work on efficiencies with the four- and two-year institutions, implementation of a performance funding framework for the public baccalaureates, remedial education, and support for providing more room and flexibility for institutions to innovate.

The second half of the work session the Committee heard about the work of stakeholders in the Interim. The Washington Student Achievement Council (WASAC), Council of Presidents, Workforce Board, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Independent Colleges of Washington, Northwest Career College Federation, Council of Faculty Representatives, Washington Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Washington Student Association and institutions all shared their thoughts.

Paul Francis, Executive Director, The Council of Presidents, thanked the committee for their passion for higher education and invited members to visit the public baccalaureate institutions. Francis highlighted the work of the Council in statewide conversations in the upcoming Interim including the participation on the WASAC Board and with advisory committees, partnering with the Legislature to further efficiency legislation, support for a deeper and comprehensive conversation focused on financial aid, and work with Washington Results.

House Advances Budgets to Conference

Today the Washington House passed a supplemental operating (53-44) and capital budget (92-4).

Several amendments were considered for both budgets, no amendments were passed that impacted higher education.

The budgets now go to conference.

Senate Committee Advances Higher Education Efficiencies Legislation

This afternoon the Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced an efficiency bill authored by the public baccalaureates and community and technical colleges.

The bill – HB 2613 – changes business practices resulting in greater efficiency and effectiveness for Washington’s public baccalaureate institutions. Among the changes proposed is permissive authority to prorate paychecks for faculty on nine-month appointments, to change payroll frequency from semi-monthly to biweekly and changes to existing reporting requirements.

The bill now advances to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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