Friday, March 11, 2011

Monday marks 10th week of session

Monday marks the start of the 10th week of the 2011 legislative session. The state revenue forecast is due on Thursday, March 17. Work on the 2011-13 budget is continuing in both houses.  The revenue forecast is expected to command a fair amount of attention relative to that budget work.

Monday, March 14, 2011
8 a.m. - House Higher Education Committee

Public hearings for several bills will be held:  SB 5463, establishing minimum standards for common student identifiers, and SSB 5664, changing the name of Lake Washington Technical College to Lake Washington Institute of Technology. 

The HECB will provide testimony in support of SSB 5484HECB to develop a biennial progress for the Spokane area Health Science Service Authority. Future reporting would be done by the HSSA’s board.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
10 a.m. - Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development
Public hearings for four bills related to higher education will be held.
 -  SHB 1089 re; instructional materials provided in a specialized format
 -  SHB 1522 regarding academic credit for prior learning
 -  SB 5868 tuition and fees for students with excess credits or prior degrees
The HECB will provide testimony in support of HB 1586, which would grant the research university branch campuses the ability to offer doctoral degrees subject to approval by the HECB.
3:30 p.m. - House Ways and Means Committee
A work session on higher education funding will be held. Those who have been invited to present include the HECB, the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, and the Council of Presidents. The purpose of the session is to provide additional perspective to House members on the effect of budget cuts to higher education.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
8 a.m. - House Higher Education Committee
A public hearing will be held on SSB 5749, which closes enrollment in the current program and creates a substitute GET 2 program effective August 1, 2011. The bill would change the GET payout by applying a formula based on the average increase in resident undergraduate tuition at all higher education institutions weighted by the number of FTE resident undergraduate students. It would shorten the period of unit usage from 10 to six years, change the terms for citizen members of the GET governing board from indefinite to four years, and require other changes.

Other bills set for consideration are ESB 5764, creating Innovate Washington, which includes the Washington Clean Energy Partnership; SB 5516, allowing advance payments for equipment maintenance services; and 2SSB 5636, concerning the University Center of North Puget Sound.

HECB review would be required prior to proposed Everett center changes

Two companion bills that passed the House and Senate recently could lead to expanded higher education opportunities in the north Puget Sound area, and provide a new administrator for the region’s existing university center – but only after the HECB makes a determination about the need for the changes.
Under 2SSB 5636 and E2SHB 1792, administration of the University Center of North Puget Sound would be transferred from Everett Community College, where the center is physically located, to Washington State University.  The Senate version of the bill, which was passed by a 39 to 9 vote, has been scheduled for an 8 a.m. hearing Wednesday, March 16, in the House Higher Education Committee.
The bills, which address the long-range goal of expanded access to baccalaureate and graduate education in the North Snohomish, Island, and Skagit county region, are based on criteria identified in System Design legislation passed by the Legislature in 2010. Assigning the responsibility for developing the center to a research university such as WSU would appear to strengthen the chance of success for the initiative.
The proposed legislation would require WSU and Everett Community College to collaborate with community leaders and other institutions that offer programs at the center to serve the varied interests of students in the region.
Amendments to the bills would make the legislation contingent upon a needs assessment by the HECB, which is required under the System Design legislation. That law requires that major expansions of the higher education system first undergo an HECB review to determine if there is demonstrated student demand for the expansion.
A coordinating and planning council would be established to develop a plan for meeting the region’s higher education needs. Among other things, the plan would address employer needs for skilled workers in high demand areas, with a special emphasis on undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, including aeronautical engineering.  Rep. Hans Dunshee of Snohomish and Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens, two sponsors of the House version of the bill, co-authored an op-ed piece in last Saturday’s (Everett) Herald that argued for establishing an aeronautical program in Everett.
Improving access to higher education in the north Puget Sound region is an issue with a long history.  In 1997, the Legislature established a consortium of higher education institutions to work on improving educational opportunities in the region, and in 2005 Everett Community College was given management responsibilities over the new center.
Today the center offers on-line and in-class courses from WSU, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, The Evergreen State College, Hope International University, St. Martin’s University and University of Washington – Bothell.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

CWU student suggests recent supplemental budget decision reflects a changing view of tuition

In an op-ed piece published in today’s Seattle Times, Central Washington University student Logan Bahr argues that lawmakers’ recent decision to offset General Fund reductions in the State Need Grant program with tuition revenue is, in effect, treating tuition as just another revenue stream for state government.  Because students must cover at least some tuition increases by borrowing more, “the state is indirectly closing its budget gap with student debt,” Bahr says.