January 29, 2013

Gov. Makes Appointments, 8th LD to Get New State Senator, Differential Tuition Bill Gets a Hearing, and Senate Dems Release Higher Ed Proposal

By Patrick Bell

Welcome to week three of the 2013 session of the Washington State Legislature. Here is what’s happening in Olympia today…

Gov. Jay Inslee announced three new Cabinet appointments today, via KOMONews.com:

Brigadier General Bret D. Daugherty was reappointed Tuesday to his position as Adjutant General of the state’s Military Department. Daugherty serves as commander of Washington’s Army and National Guard forces and oversees the state’s Emergency Management and enhanced 911 programs.

 

Brian Bonlender, who had served as Inslee’s chief of staff and legislative director while Inslee was in Congress, was named as director of the Department of Commerce.

 

Inslee named Dorothy Frost Teeter as director of the Health Care Authority, overseeing health care services for state employees and low-income residents. Teeter, who is a senior adviser at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in Maryland, will start in March.

Yesterday, KOMO profiled newly elected State Rep. Cyrus Habib (D):

Like every freshman representative, Habib is learning his way around the Capitol, getting acquainted with the many staircases and the shortcuts. But there is a twist in his learning curve.

 

“I lost my eyesight to a fairly rare form of childhood cancer, so I was totally blind by the time I was 8 years old,” said Habib, the first blind legislator in Washington state for perhaps a century.

 

He represents the technology-driven Eastside — including Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland, where he campaigned on a platform of funding higher education and growing small business — by door-knocking, personally walking up to seven thousand homes.

Earlier today, the House Higher Education committee met for a work session on financial aid and student debt (Full Agenda, Video via TVW). The committee also held a public hearing House Bill 1043, which would limit differential tuition.

House Higher Ed Cmte

UW’s Director of State Relations testified in opposition to the bill in its current form, because it takes away a tool for expanding access for students to high-demand programs, without providing an alternative.

This afternoon, the Senate Higher Education Committee held a Work Session titled, “What industry needs from our students and higher education institutions” (Agenda, Video via TVW).

Several of the firms presenting to the committee noted their close partnerships with UW, and ongoing recruitment of its graduates. These presenters included ZymoGenetics, Philips Health Care, and Socrata.

In other State Senate news, according to the Tri-City Herald, Benton County Commissioners voted last night to appoint Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Brown to replace Jerome Delvin in the State Senate.

Finally, Senate Democrats called a 3:30PM press conference to spotlight a new Higher Ed proposal.

Their press release follows…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Jan. 29, 2013

Senate Democrats introduce proposal to fund higher education, preserve GET

 

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats today announced a plan to fund public higher education, halt tuition hikes and preserve the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program.

 

“Middle class prosperity is built through higher education,” said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. “Our public higher education institutions are a crucial pathway to success and we need to make sure they remain affordable and accessible for the next generation. Tuition has nearly tripled since 2000, with most of the increase coming in the last few years. I don’t know how a family could be expected to plan their savings for college with that kind of financial uncertainty. We owe it to our kids to make sure that they can go to college without breaking the bank.”

 

The plan, consisting of the bills SB 5390, SB 5420, and SB 5421 would immediately halt tuition increases for the next two years and would set up a task force to review and implement a Race to the Top-style incentive funding model to fund public higher education institutions going forward.

 

The plan would also allow the state government to preserve the GET program, a program through which people can buy tuition credits ahead of time at current prices and then redeem them when the student attends a Washington public higher education institution. The GET program has been targeted for elimination by the Senate Republican majority in recent weeks.

 

Students defended the GET program as a crucial tool for helping families save for college. “My parents’ investment in the GET program is the only reason I will be able to graduate with no debt without financially burdening my family,” Lummy Lin, a student at the University of Washington originally from Sammamish, said. “As I take my first steps in the professional world, this means that I have the freedom to pursue the career I want in public service without having to choose a job based on my ability to pay back loans. Because of the GET program, my parents have the peace of mind of knowing that their two daughters are guaranteed a college education, and now they can save for more for their own retirement.”

 

According to a report recently released by the state Actuary’s office, if the GET program and our current tuition structure are maintained in their current configurations, there is only a 0.6 percent chance that the state will need to pay out of the general fund to cover liabilities in the GET program.

 

“That’s based on the current funding model, where the state pays for about 30 percent of higher education costs and tuition covers the other 70 percent,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. “If we were to move to a 40/60 split, the risk of needing general fund money to cover GET liabilities would go down to just 0.2 percent. But we think we can do even better than that. This plan puts us on track to fund 50 percent of higher education from state support and 50 percent from tuition by 2020. That’d save GET, save our students from crushing debt loads, and open a crucial pathway to opportunity to so many students who are priced out of higher education now.”

 

SB 5420 would immediately halt tuition increases for the 2013-2015 biennium and incorporates the recommendations made by the presidents of the six public baccalaureate institutions. SB 5390 would set up an incentive funding model to award additional funding to institutions who demonstrate improvement in metrics already tracked under state law, like the number of degrees awarded, time to degree completion, and keeping tuition affordable. The bill wouldn’t involve new standards or reporting requirements. Instead, it would fund reforms already passed. Institutions would compete against themselves, not other institutions, and participation would be voluntary on the part of each institution. A task force would be appointed to review and implement the funding model.

 

“If we want a prosperous middle class, higher education must be affordable and accessible,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “This proposal is a win-win-win for businesses that need trained workers, middle-class families that need to save for their children’s education, and for our children, who deserve the best possible opportunities we can give them.”

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