House Postpones Hearing On Budget

Late this afternoon the House postponed the public hearing and executive session on the proposed biennial operating budget.

The proposed operating budget, along with the proposed capital budget, will still be released tomorrow, March 27 at 11:30.

Both budgets are now scheduled to have a public hearing on Monday, March 30 with an executive session scheduled for Tuesday, March 31.

Stay tuned!

Next Week Deadlines and Money

Next  week the House and Senate will continue to advance policy legislation forward in the process. Both chambers have until April 1 to advance policy bills to either a fiscal committee or the floor of the opposite chamber.

The House and Senate Higher Education committees will each meet once to take final action on any policy legislation this session.

In addition, the House Capital Budget is scheduled for a public hearing on the House’s proposed biennial capital budget on Monday followed by an executive session on the budget on Tuesday.

It is expected that the Senate will release its budget proposals either sometime next week or early in the week after.

Finally between policy deadlines and budget news, the House and Senate fiscal committees will begin the long work of advancing bills to the floor. Both chamber must move all bills to the floor in the opposite chamber by April 7, unless the legislation is deemed necessary to implement the budget.

House Higher Education Committee Hears Tuition Reduction Legislation

This morning the House Higher Education Committee took up two bills that would reduce tuition at Washington’s public universities and colleges.

Senate Bill 5954 creates the College Affordability Program (CAP), removing tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduate students for the public baccalaureate institutions.

Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, tuition fees for resident undergraduates, under SB 5954,  would be no more than six percent of the state’s average wage for community and technical colleges, 10 percent for the regional universities and The Evergreen State College, and 14 percent for the research universities.

Beginning with the 2015-17 operating budget, the Legislature would 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 adjusted for inflation.

In addition the committee took testimony on HB 2201. HB 2201 would repeal tax deductions for the interest on investments for loans secured by mortgages, deeds or trusts.  The revenue generated would be used to offset a reduction in tuition for institutions of higher education and any savings to the State Need Grant would be reinvested into the grant program to serve more students. The repeal would be sent to voters in a referendum for their approval.

The Council of Presidents, University of Washington and The Evergreen State College testified on both bills. Evergreen asked the committee to focus on the critical policy issue in front of Washington higher education, how to best provide sufficient, stable and predictable funding for the state’s colleges and universities. Whatever the path forward, it is critical that it must clearly and decisively link tuition policy and state investment for institutions and financial aid.

While the college appreciates that both bills continue to make an investment to provide affordable access in higher education and try to right the ship and begin to equalize the cost sharing involved in financing higher education between the state and students and their families, Evergreen expressed to major concerns.

First, there is the lack of a direct link between tuition policy and state investment in SB 5954 because it is a policy bill and not a budget.  And while there is a link between state investment and tuition policy for HB 2201 the bill refers the decision to voters. If the measure were to fail the result would be a cut to higher education funding to simply meet current programs and services.

Second, both proposals only provide a path to address maintenance level funding for institutions. Neither proposal provides a pathway forward for the needed investments in higher education institutions and financial aid to take steps forward to ensure access to a quality, affordable postsecondary education.

Evergreen summarized by stating that the College values the focus on tuition policy, but this one part of the equation. The critical issue for higher education is how to provide adequate public reinvestment to accomplish the state’s goals for access, completion and post-graduate success.

Senate Committee Advances Evergreen Trustee Nominations

This afternoon the Senate Higher Education Committee advanced several gubernatorial appointments to the boards of institutions of higher education. Among the trustees and regents that were advanced to the Senate floor was Fred Goldberg and David Nicandri.

The Senate will confirm their appointment some time in April.

The Week Ahead: Policy and Awaiting the Budget

This week the House and Senate will continue to advance policy legislation forward in the process. Both chambers have until a week from Wednesday to move bills from the opposite chamber to either the floor or a fiscal committee.

At the same time everyone is awaiting the release of the House operating and capital budgets. This year the House will introduce their proposed biennial budgets first followed by the Senate. Rumor suggests that a release may come early next week.

House Higher Education

The House Higher Education Committee will hold a series of public hearings this week. Among the bills the committee will take testimony include legislation with regard to sexual assault prevention on campuses (SB 5518 and 5719), adding the branch campuses to the Office of Financial Management’s Education Research and Data Center’s dashboard for public, baccalaureate institutions (SB 5295), and the type of financial aid information shared with prospective and admitted students to higher education institutions (SB 5328)

The Committee is expected to hold an executive session on bills heard to date on Thursday.

Senate Higher Education

The Senate Higher Education Committee will hold several public hearings early this week.  Among the bills scheduled include legislation to establish a task force on mental health and suicide prevention in higher education (HB 1138) and the creation of a pilot project for performance-based grants within the State Need Grant (HB 2041).

The Week Ahead: Committees and Policy

This week is the first full week of policy committees post floor session.  Committees in both the House and Senate will hold public hearings and decide which bills from the opposite chamber to advance.  All policy bills, unless deemed necessary to implement the budget, must have moved from a policy committee to either a fiscal committee or the floor by April 1.

House Higher Education

The House Higher Education Committee will hold a work session focused on student consumer protection at for-profit, private colleges followed by a public hearing on legislation to conduct a study of the cost drivers at Washington’s public institutions (SB 5133) and streamlining statutes for the community and technical colleges (SB 5977).

Later this week the committee will hold a public hearing on legislation that advances recommendations to improve and enhance certain components of the College Bound Scholarship program (SB 5851), extends eligibility to students enrolled/accepted for enrollment for at least three quarter credits in a qualifying higher education program for the State Need Grant (SB 5638), creates a wildlife college student loan program (SB 5318), and aligns state student veteran residency with federal student veteran residency requirements (SB 5355).

Senate Higher Education

The Senate Higher Education Committee will hold a series of public hearings on Tuesday and Thursday focused on a range of issues.  Among the bills scheduled include legislation to require WSAC to report to the legislature regarding the affordability of the higher education system (HB 1238), remove tuition-setting authority for public baccalaureate institutions (HB 1696), and a series of bills that would benefit student veterans.

The Senate will also hold a work session on Central Washington University’s online alternative credit model proposal.

Obama Administration Issues Student Aid Bill of Rights

This week in Georgia President Obama announced the release of a Student Aid Bill of Rights along with a series of executive actions aimed at helping students who owe student loans held by the government.

The primary components of these actions will be the creation of a centralized complaint system for federal student loan borrowers as well as a single website where they can manage their loan payments.

By next July students and borrowers will be able to file complaints about federal student loan lenders, servicers, collection agencies and colleges and universities.  Through this effort students would have the ability to track what is happening with the status of a complaint and the U.S. Department of Education would have aggregate data to use from the complaint system to make decisions regarding performance of its loan services in addition to current metrics the Department collects. Finally the Department will study how it should collect and resolve complaints it receives about colleges and universities.

In addition, the series of executive actions taken by the President include steps to improve and standardize the customer service experience of federal student loan borrowers. For example the Department will establish a single website where all federal loan borrowers can access their account and payment information.  The Department also plans to direct its contracted loan services to provide enhance disclosures when their loans are transferred between servicers and to more aggressively reach out when borrowers fall behind in their payments or need help changing repayment plans. Finally the Department will instruct loan servicers to apply prepayments  – money a borrower pays in excess of their monthly minimum – to the loans with the highest interest rate, unless the borrower requests otherwise.

Beyond the Department, the U.S. Treasury will look for ways to let borrowers provide multi-year authorization for the IRS to release the income information needed to apply for federal income-based repayment programs.

Finally, the Department will engage a task force to develop regulatory and legislative proposals to help struggling borrowers with both federal and private student loans.  One topic that will be considered is a change to bankruptcy law.

Midpoint Reached – Now Budget Time and Policy in the Opposite Chamber

The Legislature passed another major deadline last night. All bills, unless necessary to implement the budget, must have moved to the opposite chamber. With this the Legislature also moved from policy mode to budget mode.

The Legislature has until April 27 in the regular session to pass a biennial operating, capital and transportation budget. The Senate took action to advance transportation in the last few weeks while on the floor, but the shape and size of the operating and capital budgets have yet to be determined.  It is expected that the House will release a proposed biennial operating and capital budget at the end of March, to be followed by the Senate.  Between now and then budget writers are talking and rumors are flying.

Until the budget releases steal the show, legislators will return to the committee structure to advance policy bills through policy committees, fiscal committees, and the floor. The next major deadline is April 1 – and this is no joke -when policy bills must have moved out of the opposite chamber’s committees and either to a fiscal committee or the floor to be considered “alive” this session.

Last week both the House and Senate advanced several higher education related bills to the opposite chamber for further consideration.  In the final days of floor session, both chambers moved additional higher education related legislation.

  • HB 1559/SB 5487 – UW/WSU medical school legislation.
  • HB 1704 – Enhances public safety and reduce recidivism through postsecondary education
  • HB 1825 – Aligns state residency laws for veterans with federal law
  • SB 5328 -Requires public baccalaureate institutions to provide financial aid application due dates and information in written or electronic for to prospective and admitted students
  • SB 5534 – Establishes a certified public accounting scholarship
  • SB 5620 – Authorize waivers of building fees and services and activities fees for certain military service members
  • SB 5841 – Creates a tuition and fees exemption for children and surviving spouses of certain highway workers

Legislature Advances Bills to Next Chamber, Long Hours on the Floor

The Washington Legislature must move all bills, unless necessary to implement the budget, from one chamber to the other by close of business on March 11.

After a week of floor action, the Senate and House have the weekend and the first half of next week to continue to advance legislation to the opposite chamber.  Both have worked long hours all week to move several bills forward ranging from legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to a transportation budget package to recognizing March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day.

Several bills that directly impact higher education have passed this latest hurdle.

  • HB 1031: Expands participation in College in the High School beyond grades 11 and 12 to students in 10th grade.
  • HB 1052:  Requires institutions of higher education to make an early registration process available to spouses and domestic partners of active members of the military.
  • HB 1138: Creates a task force on mental health and suicide prevention in higher education.
  • HB 1236: Allows certain school personnel to witness a student’s college bound scholarship pledge if the student’s parent or guardian is unavailable.
  • HB 1238: Requires the Washington Student Achievement Council to report to the Legislature by Decemer 15, 2016, regarding the affordability of the higher education system.
  • HB 1439: Establishes an online alternative credit model at Central Washington University.
  • HB 1532: Concerns budget submissions for capital design and construction at institutions of higher education.
  • HB 1570: Creates flexibility for the educator retooling conditional scholarship program.
  • HB 1644: Concerning veteran survivor tuition waiver eligibility.
  • HB 1696:  Removes tuition-setting authority from higher education institutions.
  • HB 1706: Authorizes waivers of building fees and services and activities fees for certain military service members.
  • HB 1863: Modifies collective bargaining law related to providing additional compensation for academic employees at community and technical colleges.
  • HB 1961:  A “clean up” bill for the community and technical colleges.
  • SB 5133: Concerning a study of higher education cost drivers.
  • SB 5295: Concerning the display of campus information on the statewide public four-year dashboard.
  • SB 5318: Establishes a wildlife college student loan 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.
  • SB 5518: Creates procedures to address campus sexual violence.
  • 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.
  • SB 5719: Creates a task force on campus sexual violence prevention.
  • SB 5851:  Advances recommendations to improve and enhance certain components of the program, including data collection, outreach and program outcomes.

Legislature Spends Day on the Floor

Today was the first day the Washington Senate and House gathered on their respective floors to begin deliberation on legislation. Both chambers have until the end of day on March 11 to move bills to the opposite chamber.

With regard to higher education a few bills were advanced today. Among those moving over to the other chamber included:

HB 1961 : A “clean up” bill for the community and technical colleges “clean up”

HB 1031: Expands participation in College in the High School beyond grades 11 and 12 to students in 10th grade.

HB 1052Requires institutions of higher education to make an early registration process available to spouses and domestic partners of active members of the military.