November Economic and Revenue Forecast Released

Last week the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the November revenue forecast.

The recent forecast shows an increase of $115 million in Near General Fund revenue for the current two-year budget.  Near General Fund collections are now projected to total $34.07 billion for the current biennium (2013-15).  In addition the forecast also projected a $275 million increase for the next biennium (2015-17); totaling $36.98 billion for 2015-17.

However the revenue forecast announced today, even with the increases, is insufficient to offset the costs of new caseload and enrollment projections announced earlier this year.

The Caseload Forecast Council projected Washington would have nearly 11,000 more K-12 students by the end of the next biennium. The council also projects the state will have 36,500 more Medicaid recipients than previously forecast as well as more children in foster care and more criminal offenders under community supervision.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed 2015–17 budget will be released in December. The next revenue forecast will be released in March 2015.

WA House Republicans Elect Leadership

The Washington House Republicans elected their 2015-17 legislative leadership this past week..

House Republicans elected:

  • Representative Dan Kristiansen, Republican Leader
  • Representative Joel Kretz, Deputy Leader
  • Representative Shelly Short, Caucus Chair
  • Representative J.T. Wilcox, Floor Leader
  • Representative Paul Harris, Whip
  • Representative Matt Shea, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Representative Matt Manweller, Assistant Floor Leader

Additional leadership positions are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

House Democrats Keep Current Leadership

There will be little change this session in the leadership of the Washington House Democratic Caucus.

House Democrats elected their leadership team this week:

  • Representative Frank Chopp – House Speaker
  • Representative Pat Sullivan – Majority Leader
  • Representative Eric Pettigrew – Majority Caucus Chair
  • Representative Kevin Van De Wege – Majority Whip
  • Representative Kris Lytton – Majority Floor Leader

Lytton is the only change from the 2013 Legislature. She replaces former Representative Tami Green who vacated her seat in an unsuccessful bid for the District 28 Senate seat this year.

Evergreen Submits Biennial Budget

Late last week Evergreen along with other state agencies and higher education institutions submitted the College’s 2015-17 biennial operating and capital budgets to the Office of Financial Management (OFM). OFM anticipates the arrival of 165 agency budget requests for consideration in the development of the Governor’s biennial budget proposal due in December.

Operating Budget

Evergreen’s operating budget seeks to build on the state’s leadership over the last biennium to support the first investment above maintenance level funding since the beginning of the Great Recession. Evergreen experienced an increase in state funding of 5.2% in the 2013-15 biennium. The investment by the state reduced the financial burden on students and families. Even with the enacted biennial budget, however state funds and tuition remain far below the level of support received prior to the Great Recession.

Within this context Evergreen’s operating budget builds on the 2013-15 biennial budget as a first step in a multi-biennial approach to stabilize funding for students, faculty and staff by supporting higher education. Evergreen is asking the state to maintain the support and investment the College received in the prior biennium. The request focuses on the need to support critical infrastructure for the College including market-rate compensation and maintenance operations. In addition the request asks for additional support to ensure that current programs and services are maintained at a level that recognizes student and state demands.

In particular the request proposes building on Evergreen’s quality STEM undergraduate programs, especially in the area of computer science and current efforts to reach out to underrepresented student populations with a focus on Latina/o students.

Finally, in accordance with OFM instructions, the College submitted a 15% budget reduction, which would more than reverse the gains made in higher education in recent years and dramatically impact Evergreen’s strong performance. After years of budget reductions the college would have very few options for absorbing a cut of this magnitude. At the same time further tuition increases are likely to suppress student demand especially given Evergreen’s commitment to serve low-income students.  To meet this level of reduction Evergreen would make reductions at the expense of current access to higher education.

Capital Budget

Evergreen’s biennial capital budget is consistent with prior submissions and continues to tightly integrate operating and capital budgets.  The request focuses on preservation of the College’s facilities and infrastructure. The request emphasizes the construction of the Lecture Hall Renovation as Evergreen’s top priority.  In addition the request includes funding for the Science Lab I basement construction and Seminar I Renovation predesign and design. The request also asks for authorization to enter into a Certificate of Participation through the Office of the State Treasurer for $12.5 million for the purchase of a permanent site for the Tacoma program. Finally the request includes funds for minor works and facilities preservation.

U.S. House Advances Higher Education Legislation

This week the U.S. House of Representatives took action on two bills related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (HR 4983) eliminates the College Navigator and the accountability lists put forward by the U.S. Department of Education. The website and lists would be replaced by the College Dashboard Website. The new website, developed and maintained by the Department of Education, would include institutional-level information including enrollment data, completion rates, costs, financial aid offered and cohort default rates.

The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act of 2013 (HR 3136) would relax financial aid rules to allow institutions to offer competency-based degrees. Several amendments were offered and accepted to the Act, including language to pilot the use of the tax return as the FAFSA.

The bills, introduced in June, are part of a series of bills advanced by the House to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The bills now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration. The fate of the House bills is unknown. The Senate has decided to pursue a comprehensive approach to the reauthorization, instead of the piecemeal approach advanced by the House. Therefore it is unlikely that these bills or any other legislation related to the reauthorization will see any significant movement until the new Congress enters in January 2015.

Comparing Reauthorization Proposals

The National College Access Network provides a comparison chart of the three emerging proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act:  U.S. Senate Democrats, U.S. Senate Republicans, and the U.S. House Republicans.

Lead Democrat Releases Plan for HEA Reauthorization

On the heels of the Republican release of their proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the Democrats released a “discussion draft” yesterday.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate education committee, released a draft proposal that will remain open for public comment through August 29.  In an outline of the proposal, the Senator put forward the following concepts:

  • Increase affordability and reduce college costs for students by creating a state-federal college affordability partnership to increase state investment in higher education and lower the costs of tuition for students.
  • Reinstate year-round Pell Grants.
  • Eliminate origination fees on federal Direct Loans.
  • Support community college and industry partnerships that promote innovation in higher education.
  • Expand access to dual enrollment and early college high school programs.
  • Strengthen student loan servicing standards through the creation of common-sense consumer protections.
  • Streamline repayment plans to create a single income-based repayment option.
  • Automatically enroll severely delinquent borrowers into income-based repayment.
  • Allow private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Reform abuses in the collections process and reduce unfair fees.
  • Provide student and policymakers with more meaningful disclosures and accountability metrics for institutions, including loan repayment rates.
  • Establish a risk-sharing commission to explore holding low-performing institutions financially responsible for poor student outcomes.
  • Protect taxpayers by changing the 90-10 rule for for-profit institutions to 85-15.
  • Guarantee that federal education dollars are not used on advertising and marketing.
  • Create a student complaint system to better track harmful practices.
  • Authorize several programs to reform and improve teacher and school leader preparation.
  • Provide notification to middle and high school students of their potential eligibility for federal aid.
  • Provide better up-front information and disclosures to prospective students.
  • Standardize the financial aid award letter .
  • Strengthen entrance and exit loan counseling.

 

Higher Education Act Reauthorization Proposals Emerge

This week the Republicans in the House and Senate released proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Senate

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Republican  leader on the U.S. Senate education committee unveiled his plan for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) focused his proposals on changing federal student aid programs.

Alexander’s legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), would:

  • Eliminate the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In its replace the legislation would require students and families to provide only their family size and household income. Currently the FAFSA asks more than 100 questions about their finances.
  • Restore year-round eligibility for Pell Grants and provide more flexibility for how Pell Grants are used by students.
  • Streamline federal student aid programs. Among the changes would be the creation of a “one grant and one loan” structure.

House

Representative John Kline (R-MN), the Chair of the U.S. House education committee unveiled his plan for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  The House Republican proposal would:

  • Update the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to capture data on non-traditional students.
  • Streamline information to students with a focus on greater coordination among federal agencies to avoid duplication and increase transparency.
  • Enhance financial literacy.
  • Prevent the implementation of a federal government rating system of colleges and universities.
  • Streamline federal student aid programs by creating a one grant, one loan and one work-study program.
  • Streamline repayment options for students, creating a two options a standard repayment plan and a modified income-based repayment plan.
  • Create the  “Flex Pell Grant” which would allow a student to learn of the amount of Pell funds he/she is eligible to receive over a six year period and then be able to draw funds as needed until the student either completes an academic program or exhausts the allocated funds.
  • Ensure the long-term stability of the Pell Grant program.
  • Encourage online learning by minimizing laws and federal regulation barriers.
  • Create a competency-based education demonstration project to allow institutions to explore new ways of providing education to students and require evaluations of these programs.
  • Support at-risk and minority students through reforms to improve college access programs and maintain vital institutional aid programs.
  • Eliminate overly burdensome federal regulations.
  • Strengthen teacher preparation programs by streamlining existing federal programs, reforming reporting requirements, and facilitating partnerships between school districts and institutions of higher education to reform preparation and better connect pre-service training to in-service practice.
  • Rebalance the responsibility for program integrity by recognizing the important role of the accreditation.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the education committee, is expected to release his proposal later this week.

Quarterly Revenue Forecast Released

This afternoon the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the June revenue forecast.

The forecast shows that the general fund revenue forecast will increase by $157 million for 2013-15.The forecast for the 2015-17 biennium also increased by $238 million.

The Washington economy continues to grow slowly,  with employment rising in most sectors except aerospace and federal government.

The next revenue forecast is scheduled for release in September.

 

Eastern Washington University Names New President

This week Eastern Washington University named Dr. Mary Cullinan to be the 26th president of the institution.  Dr. Cullinan comes to Washington from Oregon as the president of Southern Oregon University since 2006.  She will continue her thirty-four years of extensive higher education experience on August 1 as the President of EWU.

Dr. Cullinan will replace Dr. Arevalo who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Next Page »