Saying they’ve been left behind when it comes to getting money from the state Legislature, the state’s community colleges say they want more funding to help students complete their degrees.
If they could get more money from the state Legislature, Washington’s community colleges would spend it in ways aimed at keeping students in school and on a path to finish a degree or certificate.
Those areas were outlined by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges in a meeting last week. They’ll be drawn up in detail over the summer and presented to the Legislature this fall.
The community colleges say they’ve been left out of education funding increases in recent years. State lawmakers have boosted funding for K-12 public schools. They’ve also provided more money for the public four-year universities, allowing them to cut tuition. But community colleges receive less money than they did before the recession.
More than half of the $141 million request that the colleges plan to make — about $81 million — would go toward helping guide students to the finish line. The colleges would emphasize pathways to college completion, directing students toward a set of courses that would culminate in a degree or certificate. The colleges have a goal of increasing student retention by 10 percent by the end of the 2017-19 biennium.
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The state board says that 48 percent of its first-time, full-time students complete a degree or certificate, or transfer, within three years.
The colleges would also dedicate funding for Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST), a program that has received national attention for its success at helping students learn basic math and writing skills in the context of a career-oriented degree or certificate.
Other money would go toward reducing the colleges’ reliance on adjunct, or part-time, faculty, and to reducing the pay difference between what adjuncts and other faculty members receive. The community colleges also want money to expand a state financial-aid program called the Opportunity Grant, and to hire staff to investigate claims of sexual misconduct.
Getting more money from the state Legislature next year is going to be a tough sell, acknowledged Laura McDowell, the state board’s spokeswoman. She pointed out that if the state does a better job of funding K-12 education but doesn’t fund community colleges at a higher level, too, the new graduates of an improved public education system won’t have many choices after they graduate.
About half of all public high-school graduates in Washington enroll in community college after they get their diplomas. Overall, the colleges serve about 59 percent of all college students in Washington.