Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Governor signs bill encouraging accelerated baccalaureate programs

HECB Deputy Director Jan Ignash told the News Tribune in an article published today that SSB 5442, which Governor Gregoire signed on Monday, will encourage public four-year institutions to create more pathways for academically qualified students to graduate in three years, rather than the usual four.
That will help institutions free up space for new students at a time when baccalaureate institutions are about 11 percent over enrolled, and community and technical colleges are about 16 percent over enrolled, Ignash said.
The bill encourages public four-year institutions to develop baccalaureate degree programs that can be completed in three years without going to summer school or taking more than a normal course load. Such programs must allow qualified students to begin course work within their academic field during their first term of enrollment.
Supporters of the bill believe it will help qualified students enter the job market sooner by completing their baccalaureate degrees in three years.  The legislation does not set a new three-year standard for all students.
Some public and private institutions already offer accelerated programs.  Typically, a student must have earned college credits while in high school—through such programs as Advanced Placement or Running Start—to finish on an accelerated timetable.

Senate's budget plan passes as special session appears likely

The Senate passed an amended House operating budget Monday that makes deeper cuts in state funding for higher education and partially offsets them with even steeper tuition hikes than those included in the budget passed by the House.
The higher education sections of the Senate version of ESHB 1087 were unchanged from the Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair’s proposed budget released last week. The HECB Legislative Report previously posted a summary of the Senate proposal that includes comparisons with the House version.
Details of the budget versions passed in the House and Senate are also available on the Legislative Evaluation & Accountability Program Committee website.
The Senate and House will now work to reconcile the differing versions of ESHB 1087 to produce a final state operating budget for the 2011-13 biennium and for the remainder of the 2009-11 biennium.  The Legislature also will have to consider any separate legislation necessary to implement the budget.
It appears increasingly likely the remaining work will not be finished by the time the regular legislative session ends Sunday. That makes it likely the Governor will have to call a special session to complete the work. The Governor’s options include: 
  • Calling the special session immediately after the regular session ends;
  • Waiting a few days to give legislators more time to make progress; or
  • Deferring a special session until an agreement is reached on the budget and related bills.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Newspaper looks at budget options facing Legislature

In an article Saturday, the Seattle Times compared higher education budget proposals now under consideration by the Legislature, and the impact they could have on state funding, tuition rates, and student financial aid.
As the Legislature works to develop a final state budget for the 2011-13 biennium, one of the issues raising concern, according to the newspaper, is an increase in the percentage of nonresident students at public colleges and universities. Although resident students still comprise a significant majority, nonresident students pay much higher tuition, which helps the institutions offset significant reductions in higher education funding as a result of the recession.
An earlier Seattle Times article—which generated more than 700 comments from readers on the newspaper’s website—reported that the UW expects about 3,850 resident students to enroll in this year’s freshman class, or about 70 percent of the class.  Last year, resident students constituted 73 percent of the class.    

Governor signs Launch Year Act

A bill intended to expand opportunities for high school seniors to earn credits toward a postsecondary degree or certificate was signed Friday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
E2SHB 1808, officially known as the Launch Year Act, sets a goal for the state’s public high schools to offer sufficient courses to allow a student to earn the equivalent of a year’s worth of postsecondary credit while still in high school. The dual-credit courses could be applicable toward a certificate, apprentice program, technical degree, or associate or baccalaureate degree programs.
Many high school students already take dual-credit courses through programs such as Running Start, College in High School, Tech Prep, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, nearly 11 percent of high school courses during the 2009-10 school year offered dual credit – but whether a student could actually receive a year’s worth of postsecondary credit for completing them would depend the postsecondary program he or she entered.
The bill signed by the Governor requires higher education institutions to collaboratively develop master lists of postsecondary courses that can be fulfilled through qualifying scores or proficiency exams on dual-credit courses, or by meeting demonstrated competencies.
The legislation notes that some high school students may be discouraged from putting in extra effort on dual-credit courses during their senior year if they can’t be sure their work will help them achieve postsecondary dreams.
In comments on the House floor March 2, Rep. Kristine Lytton of Anacortes, the bill’s prime sponsor, said about 35 percent of high school seniors do not carry a full academic load during their senior years.  “The bill encourages our high schools to offer more rigorous and relevant courses, and students to maximize their opportunity to have a productive senior year and earn postsecondary credits for their hard work,” Lytton said.