Friday, January 14, 2011

News Release: 2011 edition of Key Facts now available online

OLYMPIA—A wealth of information about the state’s higher education system and issues can be found in the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 2011 edition of Key Facts about Higher Education in Washington.
The report, which the HECB has produced since 2002, is available on the agency website at  The 114-page document can be downloaded in separate chapters or as one large file.
Key Facts provides basic information about the state’s higher education system, including institutions, enrollment figures, and budget information.  It also provides comparisons with other states on important statistics, offers information showing how the state benefits from higher education, and provides data on some of the current challenges facing higher education in Washington.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

HECB duties run gamut from financial aid to consumer protection

Washington’s Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) is broadly focused on improving quality, access, affordability, and student success in postsecondary education, said Don Bennett, HECB executive director, at a meeting of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee on Wednesday.
Although the HECB is often thought of as the board that administers financial aid, the Board works on a wide range of issues and initiatives in Washington, Bennett said. One of the HECB’s most important objectives is to develop and promote programs and services designed to increase the number of K-12 students who are motivated and prepared to enroll and complete degree and certificate programs.  
The HECB plays a key role improving K-12-to-college transition through programs and initiatives like the College Bound Scholarship, GEAR UP, new College Admission Standards (aligned closely with new high school graduation requirements), and expanded teacher preparation, Bennett told the committee.
The HECB collaborates closely with many state and community educational organizations in its policy work, notably the State Board of Education, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Council of Presidents, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating boards to improve student preparation and transition.
“We tend to focus on the seams between educational sectors,” Bennett said. “We’re continually working to provide students and educational institutions the tools and skills they need to improve student success – so that many more students advance to career training or education beyond high school.”
Bennett presented the HECB’s biennial report on performance and accountability to the committee.  Jan Ignash, deputy director for policy, planning and research, followed this with a presentation on student transfer and articulation.  An additional report from the Technology Transformation Taskforce also was heard.
“The HECB is not the four-year board.  We are a broad policy, planning, citizen board that attempts to look at the broad public interest in higher education,” Bennett said. The HECB – as a Board and agency – is focused on achieving key objectives outlined in the state’s Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education.
These include increasing diversity, keeping college affordable through the State Need Grant and State Work Study programs, focusing continually on improving student retention and progress, enabling families to save for college through the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, supporting research and technology transfer initiatives, and carrying out comprehensive system design and planning.
Bennett cited advances being made at the HECB and across higher education as indicators that the state’s colleges and universities – despite unprecedented budget cuts – remain focused on achieving the master plan’s key objectives. Among the highlights he cited:
  • Technology process improvements and c ost savings in financial aid administration.
  • Increases system-wide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and high demand degree program development.
  • Degree authorization for eight new schools and 147 programs at new and existing schools.
  • More than 120,000 GET accounts now opened.
  • More than 70,000 students signed up for the College Bound Scholarship program.
The work of the HECB is expected to draw continued attention from the Legislature this session. The Governor has proposed integrating the Board’s policy and administrative work into a new Department of Education responsible for early learning, K-12 and postsecondary education.  The HECB has produced a fact sheet outlining its major areas of responsibility.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Family income still a factor in degree attainment, House committee told

Children from families with higher incomes are earning an increasingly higher percentage of college degrees compared to those from lower-income families, University of Washington Professor William Zumeta told the House Higher Education Committee on Monday.
Chart shows percentage of degree attainment by income level
However, increases in federal student aid and Washington’s longtime support for state financial aid programs have helped keep college doors open for the less affluent, Zumeta said.
Zumeta, a professor of public affairs and education at the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs, presented the House committee with research based on work done by Thomas Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.  It showed that bachelor’s degree attainment among children from the highest family-income quartile has risen dramatically—from about 40 percent in 1970 to about 75 percent in 2007. Over the same period, attainment in the two lowest-income quartiles stagnated in the roughly 10 to 15 percent range.  
Those findings are “very troubling,” especially since higher education often is seen as the “great equalizer” enabling lower-income families to achieve better lives, Zumeta said.  Other research shows that an individual’s chances of gaining upward mobility are very limited without a college degree, he said.
Zumeta’s comments came on the first day of the 2011 Legislative Session, as the House Higher Education Committee was holding a work session on higher education’s contributions to the economy and society.
Zumeta presented other data showing that compared to high school graduates, college graduates cost society less in social support programs and incarceration, and generate more local, state and federal tax revenues through higher personal incomes over their working lives. The findings are similar to some of the higher education benefits reported in the HECB’s Key Facts about Higher Education in Washington.
Another UW professor testifying before the committee on Monday was Margaret O’Mara of the Department of History. Her research includes work on the growth of high-tech regions around the world. She believes universities are “central actors” in the development of high tech centers such as Silicon Valley.
 “What I’ve found in my research is that you may be able to have a really good university that doesn’t necessarily have a high-tech or knowledge-driven region around it, but you can’t have a knowledge-driven economy without a strong higher education system,” O’Mara said.
O’Mara outlined government decisions to invest heavily in university research during the Cold War period.  Washington was one of the states that significantly benefitted from those investments in defense and medical research at academic institutions. Those investments were among the major factors enabling Washington to transform from a Cold War hub to the high-tech capital it is today, Omara said.
While the U.S. no longer has a monopoly on high tech research, “we are still the place where the smartest kids in the world want to come and study,” she said.  To preserve that competitive advantage, it is critically important to maintain a higher education system that is strong, robust and accessible, she said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Governor calls legislative session an opportunity to transform state government

Referring to other hard decisions made during the Great Depression, Gov. Chris Gregoire asked lawmakers in her State of the State address today to approach the legislative session believing they have the opportunity to help the people and businesses of Washington rebound from the effects of the recession.
The Governor said the challenge facing the Legislature will be to transform Washington state government into a "leaner, 21st Century organization that is more effective and efficient." Included on the Governor's list of transformations is her proposal to establish a new Department of Education focused solely on creating a seamless educational system "from pre-school to Ph.D."  Read more.   

Monday, January 10, 2011

Many new faces on higher education policy committees

Quite a few new members are joining the two legislative committees that will address higher education policy issues during the 2011 session.
The House Higher Education Committee has a new chairman, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who replaces former Rep. Deb Wallace, who did not seek re-election from her Vancouver legislative district.  The committee’s new ranking minority member is Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland.
House committee members serving their first terms in the Legislature are:  Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden; Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater; Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup. Others on the 15-member committee are: Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle (Vice Chair); Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane; Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland; Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver; Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley; Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman; Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett; Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake; Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle; Rep. Jim Jacks, D-Vancouver.
In the Senate, the Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee also has a new chairman, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue.  He replaces Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who remains on the higher education committee but also will serve as the Capital Budget Vice Chair on the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
Members of the Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee who are new to the Senate are: Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond; Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane; Sen. Scott White, D-Seattle, who formerly occupied a seat in the House of Representatives.
Other members of the Senate committee are Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds (Vice Chair); Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup; Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville; Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

2011 legislative session gets under way today

The 2011 regular session of the Washington Legislature got under way today and will continue this week with a full schedule of hearings on higher education topics.
Maintaining quality and affordable access to higher education in the face of continuing fiscal challenges for state government will be a major challenge this session.  State appropriations for higher education have been cut 17.5 percent this biennium and further reductions are expected in 2011-13.
As they did in this biennium, legislators may allow the state’s two- and four-year institutions to raise tuition in the 2011-13 biennium beyond the current 7 percent ceiling to help offset the effect of continuing budget reductions.
Institutions, faced with record student demand, have responded to budget cuts by eliminating academic programs, increasing class sizes, reducing student services and other measures. With the number of new students seeking postsecondary education expected to grow in 2011-13, institutions will be faced with new and increasingly difficult choices.
The first matter of priority for the session will be to close the books on the current biennium by passing a 2011 supplemental budget that closes the gap created by a projected $1.1 billion revenue shortfall. In a special session in December, legislators took the first steps necessary to close this budget gap, but more work will be needed to fully close the gap.
The Legislature also will need to address the challenge of meeting a $4.6 billion projected revenue shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium, which begins July1.
Under a budget proposal announced by the Governor, overall higher education appropriations during the next biennium would be reduced an additional 4.2 percent. This projected reduction factors the mitigating effect of tuition increases of 11 percent at WSU, the UW and WWU, 9 percent at TESC, CWU, and EWU, and 10 percent at the community and technical colleges. This afternoon (Monday, Jan. 10), a House Higher Education Committee was holding a work session to discuss the economic and societal impact of higher education in Washington.   
On Wednesday at 8 a.m., the HECB and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges will provide an overview of the types of students seeking higher education today to the House Higher Education Committee.
At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Don Bennett, HECB executive director, will present an overview of the HECB’s responsibilities in the areas of performance and accountability and conduct a more detailed presentation on recent work on transfer and articulation and technology transformation for Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
On Thursday, the House Higher Education Committee has scheduled a work session on higher education funding and budget priorities, including a presentation on the Governor’s proposed budget.