Tuesday morning the Washington House Higher Education Committee joined the House Education Appropriations Committee to discuss several bedrock issues for higher education.
The Committee heard several presentations focused on the state’s current approach to higher education funding, accountability and performance, and the work of the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force.
Ways & Means Committee staff reported that the Legislature will likely need to consider an emerging ARRA Maintenance of Effort (MOE) issue. Given recent reductions the state is approximately $25-$30 million below the MOE requirement that was tied to the stimulus dollars Washingon received in the 2009-11 biennium.
The accountabilityand performance discussion echoed much of the conversation that has happened over the last several years. Policymakers raised concerns regarding the absence of measurements about the quality of instruction and noted the emphasis on measurements that focus on pushing students through the system.
Policymakers also dialogued with representatives from the Higher Education Coordinating Board, Council of Presidents, and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges about the limits of current accountability and performance metrics, such as IPEDs, given the diverse way students approach and interact within the higher education sector. In addition, policymakers expressed the need for “real” time data and the push to use technology to collect this data.
Finally, questions rose again regarding the use of the six-year graduation rate. Mike Reilly, Executive Director for the Council of Presidents, differentiated between the six-year graduation rate measurement and time to degree and the value of both. It was also noted that using the 2003 cohort, Washington has the highest completion rate for public baccalaurate institutions in the nation; a rate that has improved by approximatley 9% over the last decade.
The Committees wrapped up their work this morning with a presentation from Governor Gregoire’s staff on the Higher Education Task Force regarding the work to date of the Task Force and next steps.