Last week was an eventful one. The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee announced on January 25 that it would be a priority for state employees to receive a 3% salary increase on July 1. On February 5, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will announce their budget amendments, and more will be known at that time about what each side recommends for the timing and percentage increase for salaries. A final decision on salary increases, however, will not be nailed down until the budget is approved by both bodies in late February.
A number of pieces of VCCS legislation passed out of their committee of origin this week and are moving forward.
Below is a recap of the week:
College Credits for Apprenticeships
It is important for students who have completed a state-approved, registered apprenticeship to be able to translate that experience into college credits, and begin stacking the credits for an associate degree and then later to a bachelor’s degree. HB 1592 (Del. James) and SB 999 (Sen. Ruff) would direct the State Board for Community Colleges to require that all 23 community colleges develop policies and procedures to award academic credit for any student who has completed an apprenticeship in a field that is aligned with a credit-bearing program. SB 999 has already passed the Senate; HB 1592 passed the House on second reading and was engrossed on Friday.
Commending Resolutions Filed
SJ 259 (Sen. Dance) and SJ 330 (Sen. Reeves) have been filed to highlight the contributions of a Virginia community college and one of its leaders. SJ 259 commends John Tyler Community College on its 50th anniversary and describes its impact on economic development in the Commonwealth and the impressive contributions of its students.
SJ 330 recognizes Dr. David Sam, President of Germanna Community College, and the transformational role he has played in the dynamic growth of Germanna Community College and its influence and importance to the community during his 10-year tenure. Dr. Sam will retire in June.
Dual Enrollment, Credit Transfer
Community college dual enrollment and transfer of community college credits to four-year institutions have received a lot of attention during the 2017 General Assembly session.
HB 1662 (Del. Greason) would clarify that the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia would establish a policy granting undergraduate general education course credit to any entering student who has successfully completed a dual enrollment course. This action would ensure uniformity and transparency of all general education dual enrollment courses and their automatic transfer to four-year public institutions of higher education. SCHEV and each public institution of higher education would also be responsible for making this policy available on their website(s). The VCCS has worked closely with Del. Greason on the legislation. In the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee on January 24, the bill was recommended for reporting. At the subcommittee meeting, the bill was supported by the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership (which represents the Loudoun, Dulles Regional, Greater Reston, and Mount Vernon Lee Chambers of Commerce) because of its positive impact on the Commonwealth’s economy and benefits for its workforce. The bill is on the House Education agenda for January 30.
SB 1234 (Sen. Dunnavant) would require the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) to develop a “passport credit” program to be offered at every associate-degree granting public institution of higher education. The “passport” credit courses would all satisfy lower division general education requirements at the public four-year universities, and these “passport” courses would be guaranteed to transfer to the institution to which the student would be admitted. The passport credit courses would then be applied to the institution’s general education requirements. The bill has been assigned to Senate Education and Health, but has not been heard yet. The effective date of the “passport” becoming operational would be June 1, 2018.
SB 1346 (Sen. Surovell) outlines that each associate-degree granting institution must designate in its respective course catalogue the courses that are transferable for course credit to baccalaureate institutions. This includes not only general education courses but also program-specific courses. SB 1346 also requires SCHEV to provide this information on the State Transfer Tool.
The VCCS has been working with the various patrons and SCHEV to integrate and consolidate these various concepts and bills so that dual enrollment transfer to Virginia’s four-year public universities is more transparent and universally transferable at four-year institutions.
Foundation “Sunshine” bill is slumbering
No action was taken this week on SB 1436 (Sen. Petersen), which would subject college and university foundations to the Freedom of Information Act. A number of college and university representatives have expressed serious concerns about the bill. Although no official action has been taken, the bill will languish and not go forward if there is no vote; members of the subcommittee have indicated that it will “go by for the year.”
TANF Funds for Community College Scholarships
SB 838 (Sen. Stanley), heard in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday, passed unanimously, and has been re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee. SB 838 would allow TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds to be used for scholarships for community college students who meet TANF eligibility requirements. Using TANF funds for scholarships is an allowable use of TANF under the eligibility guidelines. The bill would establish a three-year pilot program, beginning with a transfer of TANF funds from the Department of Social Services to the VCCS of $800,000 in FY 2018. The $4,000 scholarships would be available to 200 students, and VCCS and the Department of Social Services would enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the parameters for the program and the method of selecting the students to participate in the program. The program would be implemented at two or more community colleges, with at least one located in a rural area and one located in an urban area.
There are currently 1,296 VCCS students who are TANF eligible; their unmet financial need for 2016 was $12,499,977. These students are both dependents and parents.
The VCCS has been working closely with the Department of Social Services on the legislation, and has also been in communication with the Virginia College Savings Plan/VA 529 leadership about it. An identical bill in the House, HB 2041 (Del. Murphy) will be heard on January 31 in the House Welfare and Institutions Committee. Organizations including SALT (Social Action Linking Together) and the Virginia Poverty Law Center are strong supporters of both bills.
Transfer Grant Technical Alignment Bills Pass House and Senate Committees
On January 25, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously reported HB 1965 (Del. Massie) and the Senate Finance Committee unanimously reported SB 1026 (Sen. Dunnavant), which had been re-referred to Senate Finance from Senate Education and Health. Both bills would align the Code of Virginia with the Appropriations Act for the expected family contribution necessary for a student to qualify for the Two-Year Transfer Grant, changing the EFC in the Code from $8,000 to $12,000. VCCS State Board member Walter Stosch was the chief patron of the landmark legislation in 2007 which established the Two-Year Transfer Grant.
Tuition restriction bills passed by indefinitely in the Senate, sent to study
The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday voted to “pass by indefinitely” a number of bills which would have restricted the growth in tuition for Virginia’s public colleges and universities or somehow narrowed their use. Instead, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Norment announced that there will be language in the Senate version of the budget released on February 5 to send these bills to be studied by the Education Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee. SB 955, SB 985, SB 986, SB 987, SB 1087, SB 1088, and SB 1379 would tie maximum tuition increases to a variety of measures, and are the bills being sent to study.
The list of bills of interest to the VCCS is attached, along with a list of bills which classifies the bills by category.
Next week, there will be even more activity, as the “crossover” deadline of February 7 is approaching.
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