Thursday, April 12, 2012

Higher education spared further deep budget cuts

After weeks of partisan infighting, the Washington Legislature passed a 2012-13 supplemental budget early Wednesday  characterized by Gov. Chris Gregoire as a budget that preserves “critical programs, including education, and sets our state on a more sustainable path.”
Cuts to the operating budgets of the state’s two- and four-year public colleges and universities ranged from .03 percent to 1.4 percent from the base funding level established in the 2011-13 biennial budget. These cuts are substantially less than those levied against higher education in the previous three years.
Capital appropriations of $1.078 billion were approved for the six four-year universities and the 34 community and technical colleges.
Prior to this session, legislators agreed on a bi-partisan basis not to impose additional deep cuts on education in this supplemental budget year, despite a revenue shortfall of about $500 million. In keeping with this priority, K-12 was cut only 1 percent overall.  On the other hand, Human Services was cut 5.7 percent, and all other state services were cut a total of 2.2 percent.
Funding for the State Need Grant program, Washington’s principal assistance program for needy students, and for the State Work Study program, which helps the state’s low and middle students, was maintained at 2011-13 levels. Read more.

Friday, March 23, 2012

News Release: HECB to consider institutional authorization rule changes in March 29 meeting

OLYMPIA – During a conference call meeting on Thursday March 29, the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) will consider proposed rule changes related to higher education institutions that must obtain Board authorization to operate in Washington.
The proposed rules would increase fees for initial degree authorization, degree authorization renewal and degree authorization reapplication.  The rules also would establish fees for new program applications and new site applications, and create definitions for a “new program application” and “new site application.”
The Washington Degree-Granting Institutions Act (RCW 28B.85) requires institutions to seek authorization unless specifically exempted from the requirement. Public institutions, longstanding private institutions and schools that exclusively offer religious training are among those exempted from the requirement.
Last year, the Legislature allowed the HECB to eliminate unnecessary barriers to the delivery of online, competency-based education by Western Governor University-Washington.  Consistent with that legislation, WGU- Washington has been granted a temporary waiver from the authorization requirement of the Degree-Granting Institutions Act.  The proposed rules include language to allow a specific exemption category for schools that receive legislative recognition as Washington schools, provided the schools comply with all conditions established by the Legislature.
The proposed rules also add clarifying language to assist stakeholders in understanding Washington requirements for degree-granting institutions. No comments were received on the proposed rule revisions during a public hearing in January.
Briefing materials for the meeting are available at:

To listen to the meeting:
Phone: 1-877-668-4490
Access code: 572 909 365

Friday, March 9, 2012

New Student Achievement Council duties outlined in legislation passed Thursday

A bill establishing a new Student Achievement Council effective July 1, 2012 to replace the Higher Education Coordinating Board was approved by the Legislature on Thursday, the last day of the regular legislative session.
E2SHB 2483 establishes a nine-member council to provide focus and purpose for the goals of increasing educational attainment in Washington, including transitions from secondary to postsecondary and between and among postsecondary institutions.
Many of the HECB’s duties and functions, as well as current staff, are carried forward to the new council. The bill gives the Governor authority to appoint the five citizen council members and to appoint the executive director from a list of three candidates submitted by the council.
The five citizen council members appointed by the Governor will have experience and knowledge of higher education. One of the citizen members is to be a student who will serve a one-year term. The rest of the council members will serve four-year terms.
Also serving on the council will be a representative from the four-year public universities chosen by the presidents of those institutions and a representative of the state’s community and technical college system chosen by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
 A representative of an independent, nonprofit higher education institution selected by an association of independent non-profit institutions, and a representative of the state’s K-12 system selected by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in consultation with the Department of Early Learning and the state Board of Education round out the membership.
The mission and purpose of the council is to:
·         Propose to the Governor and Legislature goals for increasing educational attainment in Washington, recommend the resources necessary to achieve the goals, and monitor progress toward meeting the goals.
·         Propose to the Governor and the Legislature and the state’s educational institutions improvements and innovations needed to adapt the state’s educational institutions to evolving educational needs.
·         Advocate for higher education through various means, with the goal of educating the general public on the economic, social and civic benefits of postsecondary education and the consequent need for increased financial support.
The bill also creates a joint higher education committee of the Legislature to review the work of the Student Achievement Council and to provide legislative feedback, engage with the council and the higher education community on creating greater communication, coordination, and alignment between the system and expectations of the Legislature, and to provide recommendations for higher education policy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

House and Senate budgets differ on amounts cut from higher education

The House and Senate continued to wrangle over the 2012-13 supplemental budget this week, with cuts to higher education one element of contention.
In a dramatic move Saturday, March 3, Senate Republicans, joined by three Democrats, passed by one vote a budget that differed substantially from the one approved earlier in the week by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
That initial Senate budget proposal, which contained no appropriations cuts for higher education, had been applauded by college and university presidents throughout the state, whose institutions have been hit hard by successive budget cuts since the state’s financial crisis began in 2008.
The version that passed the Senate on Saturday, however, would cut higher education appropriations 1.4 percent, or about $37.5 million from the original 2011-13 biennial budget.  The proposed House budget, passed Feb. 29, would cut higher education funding 2.1 percent, or about $59 million from the original biennial budget.
Details of how the cuts would be apportioned by institution are available in a table prepared by the Higher Education Coordinating Board. The original 2011-13 biennial budget appropriated a total of $2.75 billion for higher education.
It remains to be seen what the final budget will look like. The House and Senate budget bills (ESHB 2127 and ESB 5967are now in the Ways and Means Committees of the opposite chambers, where a compromise is being sought prior to the Thursday adjournment deadline for the regular legislative session.
Last week, when the initial Senate budget was proposed, University of Washington President Michael Young said in a statement posted on the UW website: “The Senate [Ways & Means Committee chair’s] budget proposal released today puts a halt to four years of public disinvestment in higher education.  The Senate is to be commended to taking this bold stance.”
 A statement posted Monday by Elson Floyd, president of Washington State University, struck a cautious note and underscored the institution’s strong ties to legislators on both sides of the aisle. 
“We will work closely with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to promote a budget that protects, to the greatest extent possible, funding for our students and our university and a budget that places our state on a solid financial footing for the future,” Floyd’s statement said.
The Senate budget would levy proportionally larger cuts in the UW and WSU budgets as offsets to increased non-resident tuition revenue, cuts to the UW College of the Environment and WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resources, and a $5 million transfer from each to the State Toxics Control Account.
A statement posted Monday by The Evergreen State College noted that the Senate supplemental budget also includes reduced authority to waive tuition as one alternative to awarding student financial aid. That budget provision is contingent upon passage of separate legislation, SB 6617, which would limit tuition waivers to no more than 16 percent of gross authorized operating fees at the UW, and lower percentages at the other baccalaureate institutions. That bill filed, Feb. 27, currently is in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
The Senate budget would cut general fund appropriations for the state’s community and technical colleges by about $20 million less than the House budget version, but CTCs would also see their authority to waive tuition reduced by about $13 million. 
The budget that passed the Senate Saturday provides funding for student financial aid at basically the same level as the version proposed by the Senate Ways & Means Committee, including no cuts the State Need Grant Program and no suspension of the State Work Study program. 
The Senate supplemental budget also would provide an additional $3.8 million to both the UW and WSU to expand enrollments in engineering programs at the institutions.               

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Senate supplemental budget plan includes no new cuts for higher education

The Senate Ways & Means Committee chair’s 2012 supplemental budget proposal announced Tuesday would maintain appropriations for public four-year and community and technical colleges at practically the same levels they were in the original 2011-13 biennial budget.
Although that original appropriation was 25 percent below the amount needed to maintain programs at 2009-11 levels, the leveling off of higher education budget reductions will no doubt be seen as good news by many.
The House budget proposal released last week cuts $30 million and $35 million respectively from the four-year and two-year sectors, but adds back $14 million for STEM enrollments and increased engineering degree production. None of the add backs for these high demand fields are included in the Senate budget, though $3.8 million of existing funding for the University of Washington and Washington State University is dedicated for more engineering degrees.
In a key change from the original proposed House budget, the version reported out of committee and pending on the House floor removed the $4.4 million STEM degree incentive grants that would have been administered by the new Student Achievement Council that is expected to replace the HECB in July. The House budget instead adds STEM funding to the four comprehensive institutions. Since the Senate budget does not make cuts no redirection of funding is included either.
Under the Senate proposal, no additional cuts are taken from student financial aid. The Senate directs $100,000 to the Washington State Public Policy Institute to conduct a longitudinal study of the State Need Grant (SNG) program to determine the extent to which this program has increased access and degree attainment for low-income students.
The House budget reduced SNG by $10 million but retained funding for all other programs at the same level as the biennial budget, including State Work Study. The only change in the House budget reported out of committee from the original was $50,000 added to study and develop financing recommendations for the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), which is already on the books with no means of funding the principal to make such loans.
The Senate proposal includes $1 million in additional funding to perform the functions spelled out for the new Student Achievement Council. The House budget proposal increased funding by $600,000 over the current HECB funding level.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

House proposal reflects somewhat improved budget picture since November

The House Ways and Means Committee chair’s 2012 supplemental budget proposal released Tuesday would reduce appropriations to public colleges and universities by $32 million in 2013, but that reduction is significantly less than the $140 million contained in the Governor’s supplemental budget released in November.
Although the latest budget proposal could have been worse, it comes at a time when state support for higher education has already been cut by about 25.5 percent since the start of the 2007-09 biennium. The Senate’s supplemental budget plan will follow later this week or next, and the final conference budget will be negotiated and released near the end of the legislative session scheduled on March 8.
The House committee chair’s budget plan also reduces by $10 million an earlier increase in the State Need Grant (SNG) program that is intended to offset the impact of tuition increases on low-income students. In attempt to continue serving the same number of students, SNG awards would be reduced by up to 3.5 percent across all income categories, but only after applying the tuition-increase offsets. The total SNG appropriation would be about $293 million, or a $27 million increase from the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The House budget proposal also would leave intact funding for the State Work Study program, which the Governor’s earlier supplemental budget plan proposed to suspend next year. The House budget also includes a $1 million increase in the Leadership 1000 scholarship program (contracted with the College Success Foundation) to match private donors with economically disadvantaged students who would otherwise be unable to attend college after depleting their financial aid sources.
More favorable revenue and caseload forecasts have contributed to a somewhat improved budget picture since the Governor’s plan was released late last year. In addition, the House committee chair’s proposal delays the June 30, 2013 apportionment payment for K-12 school districts to July 1, 2013 and also delays a levy equalization payment, for about a $400 million shift to next biennium.
In light of recent developments, discussion also has cooled on a proposal to send a possible tax measure to the voters to “buy back” some budget cuts.
“The good economic news this month enabled us to steer clear of deep cuts in public education and limit impacts on social services and higher ed while staying within our current means,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan of Covington said in a statement Tuesday.
Specifics in the new budget proposal also reflect a priority by some budget writers to increase the number of degrees earned by students in high demand fields.  Unless additional resources are provided, a continuing gap is predicted between the number of available jobs in such fields, and the number of trained workers the state’s higher education system produces, according to a new report produced by the HECB, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.
To address those concerns, the House budget includes money to increase high-demand engineering degrees by allocating $3.9 million each to the UW and WSU for that purpose.  It also would allocate $4.4 million for a STEM Degree Incentive Program, with grants to public baccalaureate institutions that demonstrate the greatest capacity to efficiently produce quality graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math.
The House committee proposal also would provide $600,000 to carry out functions assigned to a state-level higher education agency that will succeed the HECB in July. The duties of the new agency, which would be called the Student Achievement Council, are included in Senate Bill 6232 and House Bill 2483, which started as companion bills but have each been amended several times throughout the session.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

House committee to discuss workforce needs report in Thursday session

The House Higher Education Committee will hold a workshop Thursday to discuss a new joint report on the state’s future workforce needs, including the challenge to produce more workers trained for high demand occupations in Washington.
The report, a joint effort by the HECB, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, predicts increased demand for trained workers in a range of employment categories that require postsecondary education.
Titled “A Skilled and Educated Workforce,” the report is the third in a series of biennial reports required by state law to assess forecasted net job openings at each level of higher education and the number of credentials needed to match the forecast of net job openings. A summary of the report's main conclusions was provided at the January HECB meeting.
To meet expected worker demand in the years ahead, the state will need to increase higher education system capacity to produce more trained workers at all education levels, the report notes.  In the past, Washington employers have responded to similar shortages of Washington trained workers by hiring them from other states and countries. 
About two-thirds of job openings in Washington between 2014 and 2019 will require at least a year of postsecondary education. To fill those jobs, an additional 9,000 degree holders above 2010 production level will be needed annually at the mid (two-year) level, 33,000 at the bachelor’s level, and 9,000 annual at the graduate level, the report indicates.
Washington is now well behind meeting increased degree targets set in the 2008 Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education and in a recent plan update adopted by the HECB. The final joint report will be published later this month and also will be available soon on the HECB, SBCTC and WTECB websites.  
The report includes a gap analysis of projected worker shortages in various employment categories requiring various levels of educational attainment.  For example, the analysis projects a relatively large shortage of trained workers to fill installation, maintenance and repair positions that require mid-level degrees between 2014 and 2019.
For positions requiring bachelor’s degrees, the largest gaps between 2010 degree production and future demand are in computer science and engineering, software engineering and architecture. In positions requiring a graduate degree, the biggest gaps are projected in the health professions and computer sciences.    
The report also cites the state’s long-standing shortages of registered nurses as an example of the progress that can be made when the entire system works toward the goal of narrowing the trained worker gap.   Since 2003, the state has increased the annual number of associate and bachelor’s level nursing graduates by over 68 percent. 
“This was possible because state agencies, public and private institutions, labor and the industry remained focused on the nursing shortage over the long term and the Legislature and the Governor provided support for growth in this area.”
A similar emphasis has now been placed on the training of aerospace workers, a development that could lead to substantial progress in filling the needs of that employment area, the report says.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

News Release: Higher Education Coordinating Board voices alarm at continued state funding cuts

OLYMPIA – The 10 citizen members of the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which provides coordination and oversight for the state’s higher education system, say they are ‘deeply troubled’ by the state’s inability to deliver on its central planning goal of raising educational attainment.

In forwarding the 2012 update of the state’s Strategic Master Plan to the Governor, board members emphasized the state is losing ground in efforts to increase the percentage of citizens who have completed postsecondary education:  apprenticeships, certificates, or degrees.

Washington is 9,000 degrees short of being on track to raise annual bachelor’s degree production to 39,000 — one of the principal strategies approved in the 2008 Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education in Washington, board members noted.

Progress to increase the number of mid-level and advanced degrees and certificates has been equally stymied by deep budget cuts over the last four years.

In a letter sent with the 2012 Plan Update to the Governor, legislators, education stakeholders, and the media, board members stated they could no longer sit by quietly watching the erosion of ‘our excellent higher education system… and not raise our collective voice in alarm.’

The grave possibility of continued deep budget cuts this year, continued reductions in student financial aid, and unprecedented tuition increases are creating a firestorm that is reducing academic options, limiting access, and eroding affordability for thousands of students, board members stated.

“When we cut higher education funding, we disinvest in a critical economic priority and we abdicate our responsibility to offer and incent educational opportunity to all our citizens,” the letter said.

The citizen board is charged by statute to represent the broad public interest in higher education above the interests of the individual institutions.  In existence since 1985, the board will complete its work later this spring, when it is replaced by a new council composed of institutional representatives and citizen members under legislation currently being considered.

Bill addressing differential tuition under consideration in Senate

In 2011, the Legislature passed a law allowing the state’s higher education institutions to charge differential fees for specific, high-cost courses such as engineering. These differential fees would not be required of all students.
The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, which is administered by the HECB, published a short background paper Wednesday on the impact a new differential fee bill, SSB 6399, could have on the GET program.
Under existing law, tuition consists of building fees and operating fees charged to all students registering at state colleges and universities. Under the GET program, a family’s decision to purchase 100 GET units today guarantees a year of future resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington. The state-mandated fees that are covered by GET are those charged to all students. This original GET guarantee is honored for all participants. SSB 6399 would make it clear that the term operating fee does not apply to differential fees that are unique to specific programs of study.
The HECB supports the legislation to ensure the continued solvency of the GET program. The language of SSB 6399 is in line with the current GET statute and GET’s Master Agreement. Increasing the amount of fees GET is responsible for would result in a substantial increase in GET’s unit price, putting college savings further out of reach for thousands of families.
SSB 6399 was passed by the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee Wednesday and sent to the Ways and Means Committee. The substitute included amendments requiring institutions to consult with student associations before establishing differential fees and further defines such fees.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

House, Senate offer two versions of a bill to replace HECB

Hearings continued this week on House and Senate bills that would transfer many of the responsibilities of the Higher Education Coordinating Board to a successor entity – either a Council for Higher Education or a Student Achievement Council.
The public hearings for these bills were held last week, when inclement weather prohibited many interested parties from attending. To enable a full discussion, the chairs of the House Higher Education Committee and the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee scheduled additional public hearings this week.
The House bill, HB 2483, under a proposed substitute, would create a Student Achievement Council as a state agency with a director appointed by the Governor from a list provided by the citizen members of the council.  This bill and its Senate companion bill, SB 6232, are based on the Higher Education Steering Committee recommendations.
SB 6269, an alternative to the Governor’s request legislation, would create a Council for Higher Education with a director selected by the council.
Legislative staff have prepared a comparison of key differences in the bills. Briefly, the House bill would create a nine-member council with five citizen representatives and the Senate bill would create a 14-member council with eight citizen representatives.  Institutional or sector representatives would be named to each council.
The House bill focuses on coordination and collaboration to increase statewide educational attainment; the Senate bill focuses more on policy development and coordination in higher education. The Senate bill would require the council to conduct a study and make recommendations on how best to expand its duties to include coordinating transitions from secondary to postsecondary education.
Testifying before the Senate committee Tuesday, Don Bennett, HECB executive director, said the proposed legislation would provide new emphasis on getting the relationship right between the legislature, the executive branch, and the institutions of higher education as they work to achieve the important central goal of raising statewide educational attainment.
The board has, over the years, served as a focal point for these discussions, Bennett said. A non-partisan entity is needed as the state attempts to guide institutional priorities toward meeting current and future economic and workforce needs while helping institutions fulfill their ongoing teaching, research and public service missions.  The new office or council should be expected to continue this important work, he said.
Bennett said additional attention would be needed to clarify how data needed to measure progress toward goals is gathered and analyzed – especially in light of the national movement to fund higher education on the basis of outcomes achieved rather than by student enrollments.   He also emphasized the need to fully integrate student financial assistance administration within the overall work of the new council.

Bills focus on improved efficiency, student success

Faced with a continued revenue shortfall, legislators have introduced a number of bills to promote cost efficiencies in higher education and improve student success. Many of these bills would impact the workload of the public colleges and universities, the HECB successor agency, and the public schools. However, most specify the additional work should be carried out within existing resources.
Student Auditing Committees
HB 2478 would create a seven-member student auditing committee at each four-year higher education institution to review at least one major institutional project annually; identify programs, practices, and processes that could be improved; and make recommendations to achieve cost reductions. The committees would be required to consult with the staff of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee and HECB successor for guidance on choosing appropriate projects, methodology, and presentation of information.
Completing a Baccalaureate Degree in Three Years
SB 6029 would amend the Launch Year Act by adding a requirement that all public high schools inform students and their families about opportunities to complete a baccalaureate degree in three years. The bill would require each higher education institution to publicize information on accelerated bachelor’s degree programs and any additional opportunities to complete a bachelor’s degree within three years and to provide this information to the HECB successor agency for distribution to OSPI.
Financial Aid Counseling Curriculum
SB 6121 would require the HECB or its successor to provide an online financial aid counseling curriculum to higher education institutions that includes an explanation of State Need Grant program rules; information on campus and private scholarships and work-study opportunities; an overview of student loan options (including the consequences of default); an overview of financial literacy; and average salaries for a wide range of jobs. Institutions would be required to take reasonable steps to ensure each State Need Grant recipient participates and completes the counseling.
Quarterly Academic Advising for Students
HB 2436 would direct higher education institutions to require students to meet with an academic adviser at least once per quarter to ensure they remain on track to complete a degree or certificate.  The student’s goals, degree program requirements and academic progress would be reviewed during the advising sessions.   
Financial Literacy as a High School Graduation Requirement
HB 2268 would require Washington high school students to successfully complete a half-credit course in financial literacy to qualify for graduation. The course would cover concepts such as saving, credit, insurance, inflation, and household budgeting.  The requirement would not add to the total number of credits students must have for graduation.
Requiring School Districts to Provide Remedial Postsecondary Education
SB 6438 would require school districts, under certain circumstances, to provide remedial education for recent high school graduates or pay the cost of providing state-supported remedial education for those students. Average instructional costs for remediation would be established and reports from public higher education institutions would be provided annually showing the number of students enrolled and the types of remedial courses taken. School districts would have the option of conducting remedial courses themselves or paying for the cost. The act would be applicable to students who earned their high school diplomas within three years of enrolling in remedial courses.
Creating Laboratory School Partnerships
 SB 6348 would create laboratory school partnerships that bring together Washington's institutions of higher education and low-achieving public schools to collaborate and implement plans to accelerate student achievement and deepen the knowledge and skills of educators. The synergy of the collaboration is expected to advance educator preparation and student learning practices within both the public school and higher education systems.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Statewide online transfer and advising system back on legislative agenda

In 2006, the state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities piloted an online transfer and student advising system designed to make it easier for students who attend two or more postsecondary institutions to earn a degree.
Subsequently, a proposal to fund full statewide implementation of the system was not approved by the Legislature and the initiative has been on the shelf since.
However, legislation introduced in the first week of this session would require state education agencies and the higher education institutions to create and maintain such a system under the direction of the Higher Education Coordinating Board or its successor agency.
A little more than two weeks into the current legislative session, this is one of a number of bills focusing on student success that would assign new duties to the Higher Education Coordinating Board or its successor agency.  
The bill, HB 2258, would establish a statewide online transfer and student advising system that “integrates information related to programs, advising, registration, admissions, and transfer.”
The system would improve service delivery to students by providing easy access to information on programs, resources, and transferability of courses, the bill states.  
Featuring an inventory of postsecondary degrees and certificates available in the state, including online options, the system also would outline educational requirements for various occupations, including labor market information.
Other required elements of the system:
  • Specify educational requirements, admissions requirements, and prerequisites for all postsecondary programs.
  • Identify course options that meet the requirements of selected path toward a degree or certificate.
  • Provide registration and admissions information for institutions of higher education.
  • Provide a method for students to assess which courses and programs are transferrable from one institution of higher education to another and which programs will transfer with credit towards completion of their chosen degree or certificate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Key legislator supports maintaining SWS program funding

The chair of the House Higher Education Committee said last week that some money should be preserved for the State Work Study program in the final year of this biennium because it is highly effective in helping students achieve their educational goals.

Rep. Larry Seaquist said he would propose restoring some money for the SWS program in 2012-13. The Governor has recommended suspending the program’s funding to help offset the state’s revenue shortfall.

“Even though we are looking at ways to shrink the budget, we might want to add back some work study money because of its high effectiveness,” Seaquist said during a hearing on the SWS and State Need Grant programs before the House Education Appropriations Committee last week.  

Rachelle Sharpe, director of Student Financial Assistance, said program is helping more than 7,500 Washington students to support themselves while earning a degree. SWS also provides students marketable employment skills and reduces their debt upon graduation, she said.

The SWS program will distribute $20.6 million in state and employer contributions this fiscal year in the form of student wages.  About 2,000 public and private employers will provide $6.3 million of the program’s total expenditures.  Fifty-five public and private two- and four-year institutions participate.

Washington’s SWS program is more than 35 years old, making it the second oldest program of its type in the country. Prior to recent reductions, it was also the largest in the nation. SWS eligibility is based on student financial need, and it is the state’s only need-based program open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Whenever possible, SWS students fill positions that relate to their academic and career interests, making the work study experience a potential springboard to jobs in their chosen fields after graduation. Many graduates ultimately are hired full-time by the same organizations that employed them as SWS students.

Two years ago, state funding for the SWS program was cut by two-thirds and employer match requirements were increased significantly. Other policy changes were implemented to continue providing as many SWS positions as possible in light of reduced funding. Sharpe said the program has experienced a decrease in off-campus placements, but it is unclear whether that is the result of increasing employer contributions or the decrease in the size of the program overall.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Career pathways legislation among higher education bills introduced as 2012 session gets under way

Bills introduced during the first week of the 2012 Legislative Session focus to a great extent on finding ways to increase the number of students participating and succeeding in areas of study that meet critical workforce needs — especially in the areas of computer and information science, engineering, and the health professions.
A new Career Pathways Act calls for a comprehensive statewide information effort by education institutions and state agencies to inform students, beginning in middle school, of the wide range of career preparation options available that lead to middle-income jobs.
These include skilled trades, pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, industry certifications, and workforce training programs as well as one-year certificates, associate, bachelor’s and advanced degrees.
A Washington Works bill is designed to create a reward system for improvements in completions at all levels of education with a particular focus on improvement in specific high demand occupations. 
Following is a summary of the key pieces of legislation introduced so far.
1.    SB 6029 amends Launch Year Act to require notification of three-year baccalaureate programs.

2.    HB 2209 amends RCW 28A.150.260, the K-12 Act covering contracted alternative learning experiences.  Running Start is excluded as a contracted alternative learning experience. State assessment testing is mandated for full- and part-time students. Contracted alternative learning experience programs are exempted from a proposed 15 percent budget cut for 2012-13.

3.    HB 2254 – Continues the Passport to College program beyond the six-year pilot phase. The bill allows foster youth who are younger than 18 to receive the Passport scholarship.  In addition, all foster youth would be automatically enrolled by DSHS as College Bound Scholarship participants. This means that Foster Youth in grades 9-12 would be allowed to participate in the College Bound program. OSPI is required to identify six to 10 school districts with the highest number of dependent students – districts in which certified staff navigators can be placed to focus on improving school graduation. 
4.    HB 2155/SB 5982 – Creates a Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation under the authority of the UW and WSU to offer all levels of programs to advance research on new technologies that might result in innovative products for the aerospace industry. The bill calls for the enhancement of the engineering departments at UW and WSU – and any other institutions that want to participate in industry-focused research. The center would seek additional private, federal and non-profit grant support and would sponsor at least one annual symposium on aerospace research in Washington. An advisory board composed of five institutional and industry representatives would be appointed by the governor.
5.    HB 2156/SB 5976 – Creates a Center for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing under the authority of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) with responsibility for data collection and analysis. The Center would be required to conduct skill gap analysis with EDRC. An advisory committee composed mostly of industry representatives would be developed.  The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB) would be required to evaluate programs annually, including employment outcome analysis. The WTECB also would evaluate, every four years, the Center’s net outcomes and cost benefit.
6.    HB 2170 – Creates a Career Pathways Act to build and reinforce awareness among middle and high school students and their parents about the availability of postsecondary pathways to non-baccalaureate career opportunities and about the remuneration and job opportunities available in those career pathways.
The act would require that materials and communications used by state education agencies include information about multiple career pathways and emphasize the value of each pathway, including employment prospects and earnings.  
The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB) would be required to identify and publicize online tools that students and parents could use to explore multiple career pathways, as well as to create an annual list of promising careers.
The act also would establish Career Exploration Partnership Zones to increase connections and access to internship, employment, and training opportunities and facilitate information exchange among schools, businesses, labor communities, apprenticeship councils and higher education.

7.    HB 2265 – Creates Washington Works to provide a reward system for improvements in completions at all levels of education with a particular focus on improvement in specific high demand occupations.  
The bill lists occupations with critical skill shortages as aerospace, biology and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, health professions and clinical sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies. It stipulates this list should be revised annually to include areas of additional shortage.
Success would be measured by assigning points to each educational entity for increasing student success, numbers of graduates, and numbers of graduates from disadvantaged populations.   Institutions meeting or exceeding numeric goals would be eligible for rewards from a Washington Works fund established to promote improvement.