Friday, May 20, 2011

Seaquist predicts passage of higher education governance bill

Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, told HECB members Thursday  he expects E2SSB 5182, a bill that eliminates the Board and establishes a new Council on Higher Education, will pass out of the House this weekend with amendments. The Board held its regular meeting at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland.
As amended by the House Ways & Means Committee May 11, the bill would eliminate the HECB effective July 1, 2012, subject to recommendations from a steering committee and adoption of implementing legislation during the 2012 legislative session. Student financial aid administration, one of the HECB’s responsibilities, would become the responsibility of a separate Office of Student Financial Aid with a director appointed by the Governor. Administrative oversight for the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program also would be transferred to the new student aid office.  The transfer of administrative responsibilities would take place July 1, 2012 under a proposed floor amendment not yet voted on by the full House.
 The proposed floor amendment would authorize a steering committee, headed by a representative from the Governor’s office, to study and make recommendations about the organization and responsibilities of the new Higher Education Council by December of this year. Legislators, OFM, representatives from the two- and four-year institutions, and others would be members of the steering committee.
In the coming fiscal year, the HECB will continue to work on an update to the 2008 Strategic Master Plan, required this December,  produce various planning and accountability reports required by the Legislature, and carry out its administrative responsibilities for financial aid and GET.
Seaquist said significant improvement to higher education funding is needed, and the Legislature is working to develop a grand strategy to increase both funding and higher education attainment in Washington. He said this strategy would include a series of public meetings held on campuses around the state this year.
 “We need everyone thinking about education. I’ve written a bill that could give us a practical way to add back $1 billion in funding to higher education. We can no longer take money out of the system.”

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