Senate Confirms Evergreen Trustee

This week the Washington Senate confirmed student trustee to The Evergreen State College Board of Trustees, Nick Wootan with a vote of 46-0.

Congress Passes Bipartisan Higher Education Savings Legislation

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 529, legislation introduced by Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) that would make 529 plans more flexible by making computers an eligible education expense; allowing the redeposit of college refunds without negative tax implications in certain circumstances and updating outdated accounting rules.

Over the Hump

Today marks the halfway point to the next major deadline this session. By end of day on Friday, bills that have been sent to an appropriation committee must advance from committee to their respective floor for further consideration.

This afternoon the House Appropriations heard testimony on legislation to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism through postsecondary education (HB 1704) and the UW/WSU medical school legislation (HB 1559). Tomorrow the House Appropriations committee will hear a few more higher education bills including:

  • HB 1696: Returns tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduate students to the operating budget
  • HB 1812: Requires WSAC to design and implement a program that provides information to high-achieving, low-income high school studetns to increase applications from these students to public and independent, non-profit baccalaureate institutions in Washington
  • HB 2041: Establishes a performance based pilot project within the State Need Grant program.

In the afternoon the Senate Ways & Means Committee is expected to take executive action on several higher education bills, including:

  • SB 5954: Creates the College Affordability Program (CAP). Removes tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduate students for the public baccalaureate institutions. Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, tuition fees for resident undergraduates must be no more than the following: for community and technical colleges, 6 percent of the state’s average wage; for the regional universities and The Evergreen State College, 10 percent of the state’s average wage; and for the research universities, 14 percent of the state’s average wage. Beginning with the 2015-17 operating budget, the Legislature must appropriate to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and each four-year institution of higher education an amount that is at least equal to the total state funds appropriated in the 2013-15 biennium plus the reduction in revenues from resident undergraduate tuition operating fees received for the 2015-17 fiscal biennium under this act, adjusted for inflation. Additionally, the dollar value of the building fee must not be reduced below the level in the 2014-15 academic year, adjusted for inflation.
  • SB 5851: Advances recommendations to improve and enhance certain components of the program, including data collection, outreach and program outcomes.
  • SB 5561: A child of a veteran or National Guard member is eligible for a full tuition waiver at a Washington State institution of higher education if one of the child’s parents became totally disabled as a result of active service, was a prisoner of war, or lost their life as a result of serving in active duty, and the child: is a Washington domiciliary between the age of 17 and 26; or meets one of eight federal requirements for receiving education assistance.
  • SB 5547: SNG recipients must maintain a 2.5 GPA to be eligible for renewal, unless the student attends The Evergreen State College (TESC). Students enrolled at TESC must meet the requirements of the college’s satisfactory academic progress policy to remain
    eligible for the SNG program.
  • SB 5355: Amends the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the veterans access, choice, and accountability act of 2014.

More Higher Education Bills Heard by Appropriations Committee

This afternoon the House Appropriations heard testimony on two higher education related bills.

  • HB 1546: Makes change to the dual credit opportunities provided by Washington’s public institutions of higher education.
  • HB 1825: Amends the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the veterans access, choice, and accountability act of 2014.

While no higher education bills are before the Senate Ways & Means committee tomorrow. The House Appropriations committee will hear public testimony on legislation to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism through postsecondary education (HB 1704) and the UW/WSU medical school legislation (HB 1559).

Money Committees Move Quickly to Advance Legislation

The appropriation committees in the House and Senate kicked off the week with long sessions of public hearings on dozens of bills.  Friday, March 27 marks another major deadline in the legislative process. Bills that have been moved to an appropriations committee in either the House or the Senate must have moved from the committee to the floor by the end of the day.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee heard several higher education related bills this afternoon, including:

  • SB 5954: Creates the College Affordability Program (CAP). Removes tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduate students for the public baccalaureate institutions. Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, tuition fees for resident undergraduates must be no more than the following: for community and technical colleges, 6 percent of the state’s average wage; for the regional universities and The Evergreen State College, 10 percent of the state’s average wage; and for the research universities, 14 percent of the state’s average wage. Beginning with the 2015-17 operating budget, the Legislature must appropriate to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and each four-year institution of higher education an amount that is at least equal to the total state funds appropriated in the 2013-15 biennium plus the reduction in revenues from resident undergraduate tuition operating fees received for the 2015-17 fiscal biennium under this act, adjusted for inflation. Additionally, the dollar value of the building fee must not be reduced below the level in the 2014-15 academic year, adjusted for inflation.
  • SB 5851: Advances recommendations to improve and enhance certain components of the program, including data collection, outreach and program outcomes.
  • SB 5561: A child of a veteran or National Guard member is eligible for a full tuition waiver at a Washington State institution of higher education if one of the child’s parents became totally disabled as a result of active service, was a prisoner of war, or lost their life as a result of serving in active duty, and the child: is a Washington domiciliary between the age of 17 and 26; or meets one of eight federal requirements for receiving education assistance.
  • SB 5547: SNG recipients must maintain a 2.5 GPA to be eligible for renewal, unless the student attends The Evergreen State College (TESC). Students enrolled at TESC must meet the requirements of the college’s satisfactory academic progress policy to remain
    eligible for the SNG program.
  • SB 5355: Amends the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the veterans access, choice, and accountability act of 2014.

The House Appropriations committee is expected to take up a handful of higher education bills tomorrow including:

  • HB 1546: Makes change to the dual credit opportunities provided by Washington’s public institutions of higher education.
  • HB 1825: Amends the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the veterans access, choice, and accountability act of 2014.

Revenue Forecast Early; Slight Uptick

On Friday the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the most recent revenue report.  Revenue projections through 2017 have increased by $274 million. This raises the 2015-17 state budget to $37 billion.

Amid the good news was the stark reminder that the Legislature still must find a way to deal with I-1351 to lower class sizes – which would create an estimated $2 billion budget shortfall.  Even if the Legislature suspends or even sends the initiative back to the voters, policymakers must still find a way to fund the McCleary decision.

This session policymakers moved the revenue forecast up a month in an effort to move the budget process along.  The next revenue forecast will be released in June.

Fast and Furious to the Deadline

Today marked the first major deadline of the 2015 legislative session. All policy bills, unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB), must have moved from their respective policy committees to either an appropriation committee or rules.

Both the Senate and House higher education committees have spent the last two weeks advancing bills to the next stage in the process.

Below is a brief glimpse of some of the bills that have advanced past today’s deadline.

  • HB 1500: Requires the Joint Higher Education Committee to conduct a study of higher education costs at the state universities, regional universities, and The Evergreen State College – House Appropriations
  • HB 1696: Returns tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduate students to the operating budget – House Appropriations
  • HB 1973: Establishes the Washington Open Education Pilot Program at Eastern Washington University beginning in the 2015-16 academic year – House Appropriations
  • SB 5638: Students who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment for at least three quarter credits, or the equivalent semester hours, in a qualifying higher education program are eligible for the State Need Grant – Senate Rules
  • SB 5318: Establishes a wildlife college student loan program – Senate Rules
  • SB 5547: SNG recipients must maintain a 2.5 grade point average to be eligible for renewal, unless the student attends The Evergreen State College. Students enrolled at Evergreen must meet the requirements of the college’s satisfactory academic progress policy to remain eligible for the State Need Grant program – Senate Ways & Means

The bills that advanced this week from the policy committees, if moved to an appropriation committee, must move from committee to the floor by the end of the day on March 27.  Stay tuned!

Week in Review

This week committees transitioned from work sessions to public hearings, even advancing some bills to the next step in the legislative process.

The Senate Higher Education Committee spent the week listening to testimony on a range of bills and moving forward trustee appointments. The Committee held public hearings on bills focusing on tuition policy, student veterans, and sexual assault prevention. Evergreen weighed in supporting bills to align state policy impacting student veterans with federal policy, provide support for sexual assault prevention, and eliminate tuition-setting authority for public baccalaureate institutions.

The Senate Higher Education also took action and advanced Nick Wootan, Student Trustee for The Evergreen State College to the full Senate for confirmation.

The House Higher Education Committee also spent the week taking public testimony on a range of bills.  Legislation before the committee focused on student veterans, transparency and accountability, performance funding and tuition policy.  Evergreen echoed testimony the College provided in the Senate to support legislation that would align state policy with federal policy for student veterans and eliminate tuition-setting authority for public baccalaureate institutions.

Evergreen also  testified on a variety of bills that focused on transparency and accountability.  The College asked the committee to not duplicate current reporting efforts and to clarify responsibilities within the legislation. Among the bills was legislation to create a performance incentive funding policy for the comprehensive institutions and Evergreen.

Finally, Evergreen testified in support of the Governor’s biennial capital budget before the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  Evergreen asked the Committee to support funding for Evergreen’s capital priorities and to provide funding to maintain and preserve existing facilities.

Next week both the House and Senate Higher Education Committees will continue to hold public hearings.  Bills will focus on financial aid policy and higher education funding.

Nearly a Month In…

Washington is nearly a month in to the 2015 legislative session. Activity abounds.

In the House, the 2015 supplemental budget passed off the floor late last week and the Appropriations Committee has held a public hearing on the Governor’s proposed biennial budget.  In addition, the Capital Budget Committee took testimony on the Governor’s proposed biennial capital budget.

The House Higher Education Committee opened the legislative session with several work sessions focused on timely topics including access and affordability and areas of study that lead to good jobs – highlighting computer science, rural health care, and maritime industries. Beginning last week, the Committee began hold public hearings on legislation introduced this session. The focus of bills introduced this session have ranged from efficiencies and transparency within higher education to strategic planning to access and affordability policies.

The Committee will continue to hold public hearings and begin executive sessions through this week and likely most of next week as the first legislative deadline nears at the end of February.

The Senate has followed a similar path.  The Senate Ways & Means Committee opened the session with a public hearing on the Governor’s biennial operating budget followed by two work sessions focused on higher education funding and capital construction.  This week the Committee will hold a public hearing on the Governor’s proposed biennial capital budget.

The Senate Higher Education Committee also has taken time to focus on topics of the day in higher education, such as medical education, campus sexual assault prevention, and higher education funding.  Beginning last week the committee focused on advancing legislation introduced this session, giving attention to a series of bills focused on financial aid and transparency. The committee will continue this work this week with hearings on sexual assault prevention legislation, tuition policy, and veterans.

Finally, the Committee has held a series of conversations with trustees and regents appointed by the Governor to serve on higher education related public boards.

Obama Releases FY16 Budget – Focus on Education

This week President Obama released his FY16 budget.  The budget includes several key investments to support the education continuum by investing in the expansion of high-quality early learning programs, increasing equity and opportunity for all students; supporting teachers and school leaders; and improving access, affordability and student outcomes in college.

The proposed budget includes several investments in higher education:

  • America’s College Promise Initiative, which would partner with state’s to offer free tuition for the first two years of community college ($1.36 billion).
  • Full support for the Pell Grant program, including tying the maximum award to inflation beyond 2017 ($29.7 billion)
  • Simplification of the FAFSA
  • Expansion of job opportunities through the American Technical Training Fund, a joint effort with the Department of Labor ($200 million)
  • Simplification of Income-Driven student loan repayment plans
  • An increase in support for federal TRIO programs by $20 million ($860 million)
  • An increase in support for the First in the World program by $140 million ($200 million)

In addition to higher education, the budget makes several investments in early learning and K-12 education.  Among the highlights is funding to support the Preschool for All program to provide universal high-quality preschool programs for all four year-old from low- and moderate-income families and the Teaching for Tomorrow program to support changes in how states and districts recruit and prepare new teachers and strengthen professional support for teachers throughout their career.

The President’s proposed budget now goes to The Hill for consideration.

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