Legislature narrows field of higher ed reform bills to three

Three “higher education reform” bills are moving forward in the legislative process. Because they’re all about money, they can be considered “necessary to implement the budget”–and that exempts them from all legislative deadlines. In other words, their fate may not be determined until the very last day of the legislative session.

April 24 is the last day of the regular session. If the legislature hasn’t finished business, it may go into special session. Each special session (yes, there could be more than one) may run up to 30 days.

SB 5717 and HB 1666 are versions of the governor’s higher education task force recommendations. They link changes in tuition to the level of investment in higher education of other competitor states — “Global Challenge States.” Each of these bills has moved to the Ways & Means committee of the chamber in which it originated.



Request of the governor


Request of the governor

DEGREE PRODUCTION ¡ Increase the number of bachelors degrees by 27% (6,000);

¡ At least 2000 of the additional degrees must be in STEM fields,

¡ At least 19% of baccalaureate degrees must be to low-income or first-generation

Same N/A
TUITION ¡ Sets state funding baseline at FY 2011, a very low budget year. ($41 – $43.3M)

Beginning in 2013-14, baccalaureates may set tuition. If state funding is.

· Below baseline then tuition can increase to 60th percent of comparable schools, or the institution may reduce enrollments, or both;

· Equal to baseline, then tuition can increase tuition to 60th percentile of peers. Enrollment must be maintained or increased

· State funding plus tuition is above 60th percentile of peers, tuition must be decreased to that level.

¡ Sets state funding baseline at FY 2008, a strong budget year. ($56.2M)

Same implementation.

Tuition may increase no more than 5% over the previous academic year.

¡ Authorizes public baccalaureate institutions to set tuition rates for all students for academic years 2011 through 2014.

¡ Permits baccalaureates to charge Running Start students a fee equal to 10 percent of tuition and fees.

Performance measures ¡ Requires a plan to meet the degree targets, and report on 1) technology use in instruction; 2) administrative efficiencies; 3) eliminating under-used programs; 4) creating three-year degree programs; (5) increasing tuition for lingering students; 6) recognizing prior learning experiences; and 7) recognizing transfer credits.

¡ Adopts National Gov Association’s accountability reporting measures.

¡ The HECB designs a program of rewards based on each institutions degree production progress, measured by 1) total number of degrees completed; 2) number of degrees in specified fields; 3) retention increases for students receiving need-based financial assistance; and 4) number of excess credits taken beyond those needed to graduate.


Same Same

¡ Establishes data reporting requirements for baccalaureates in statute and repeals performance agreements.


¡ Establishes a “baccalaureate degree innovation program” requiring baccalaureates to design performance -improvement goals to increase access, affordability, and quality of degrees.

¡ Establishes awards for improvements in performance, including new uses of technology to enhance student achievement and administrative efficiencies; and flexible, customized systems and services that support student success.

FINANCIAL AID ¡ Endowment fund eliminated in the substitute bill. ¡ Creates an endowment for low- and middle-income students who wish to earn a baccalaureate degree, and a tax credit for businesses that contribute. ¡ Directs baccalaureates to use some tuition above certain limits to mitigate the effects of tuition increases on middle class students.”

¡ Directs higher education to develop State Need Grant award criteria and methods of disbursement based on level of need and not solely rely on a first- come, first-served basis.

¡ Directs the HECB to consider the number of children in a family when determining “family contribution” for need assessment.

Academics ¡ Community college students who earn a transfer degree and are admitted to a baccalaureate must be given junior standing and be deemed to have met gen-ed requirements.

¡ Transfer students with 90 quarter hours and have completed gen-ed requirements at another public baccalaureate are admitted to another four-year institution with junior standing and must be deemed to have met gen-ed requirements.

¡ Each institution must develop at least one degree in arts and sciences that can be completed within 90 upper-division quarter hours by any student who enters as a junior.

¡ Community and technical colleges will work jointly with the four-year institutions to develop equivalent course lists for one years worth of gen-ed credit.

¡ Students with one year of gen-ed credits may receive a one-year academic completion certificate. Community and technical colleges must identify and publish a list of college-level courses that are recognized by all four-year institutions, a list of courses that satisfy the one-year completion certificate requirements, and courses for a transferrable associate degree.

All elements same as the Senate bill plus

¡ Creates a definition of STEM degrees as public interest degrees in programs for which students may enroll at reduced tuition.

¡ Each four-year institution of higher education must publish a list of recommended courses for each academic major designed to help students who are planning to transfer design their course of study.

¡ Publication of the list of courses must be easily identified and accessible on the institution’s web site.


About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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