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Wash. Community, Technical Colleges Push for Funding

House Bill 1300 would establish the Reinvest in Our Colleges program to support community and technical colleges. (AFT WA)
House Bill 1300 would establish the Reinvest in Our Colleges program to support community and technical colleges. (AFT WA)
February 5, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Community and technical colleges are calling for investment from Washington state lawmakers this legislative session. Staff at community and technical colleges have launched the Reinvest in Our Colleges campaign and are asking for $500 million in permanent funding over the next two years.

Nearly 60 percent of postsecondary students in the state attend or graduate from CTCs, but those 34 colleges receive less than 40 percent of the state's higher education funding. Jim Howe, vice president for legislative affairs with the American Federation of Teachers of Washington and also a faculty member at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, said CTCs can fill the state's growing labor gap.

"There's a shortage of workers in so many fields - high-tech and nursing and things like that - and we're the ones that can supply those,” Howe said. “But it's a heavy lift, and we're struggling with our funding already."

In 2013, the Washington Student Achievement Council set a goal that 70 percent of adults would have postsecondary credentials by 2023. To achieve that goal, the colleges will need to graduate more than 45,000 students a year, roughly 12,000 more students than they currently graduate.

Howe said pay needs to be competitive to retain faculty. Forty percent of staff only make three-quarters of market-value salaries.

House Bill 1300 would create the Reinvest in Our Colleges program, with goals to increase compensation for faculty, establish an office for diversity and equity, and provide better wages for faculty and staff that work with incarcerated populations. The bill also calls for funding to increase the number of counselors at the colleges.

Earl Martin, a counselor at Everett Community College, said another bill, HB 1355, would set ratios for the number of students to each counselor.

"The last time the state had a standard was many years ago and they called for 1-to-500. But that was just a policy recommendation, never put into code,” Martin said. “We're asking for almost twice as high as that at the 900 level."

Martin said counselors are key for getting students ready to be part of the workforce. He also noted that community and technical colleges are the affordable - and sometimes only - option for Washingtonians. On average, tuition costs per quarter at CTCs are nearly 40 percent less than at a university, and nearly 65 percent less than at a research university.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA