Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.
There was significant legislative activity related to postsecondary education this spring – with a couple of landmark bills that even caught the attention of national media.
One of the most notable higher education bills to pass thus far hails from Tennessee, where Governor Bill Haslam recently signed into law the, “Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act.” The law, which will largely be paid for through lottery revenues, guarantees two years of free tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for all graduating high school seniors starting in 2015. Gov. Haslam first proposed in this year’s State of the State address as the cornerstone of his year-old Drive to 55 initiative to increase Tennessean higher education attainment to 55 percent by 2025.
Two other states also made forays into this arena. The Oregon state legislature directed its Higher Education Coordinating Commission to explore the possibility of a free tuition program. The commission is expected to submit its report by September 30. A similar effort in Mississippi, however, died in committee.
Colorado gave its higher education system a much-needed infusion of funds after years of budget cuts. The legislation known as the “College Affordability Act,” was signed by Governor John Hickenlooper in early May and increases higher education funding by $100 million for the 2014-2015 academic year (AY). The bill also institutes a six percent cap on tuition increases for the next two years. Of that $100 million, 13 percent will be directed to community colleges, 40 percent to student aid and the remaining 53 percent to other higher education institutions.
Colorado’s legislature also passed a measure that would use outcome measures such as student retention and completion rates to determine an institution’s state funding. Currently, the bill has been sent to the governor for signature. Much of the proposed legislation is vague, and if signed into law, such details would be determined by the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
Postsecondary Attainment Plans
Oregon lawmakers added apprenticeships to its higher education attainment plan, also known as the “40-40-20” goal. The plan, which was launched in 2011, states that by 2025 all adult Oregonians will hold a high school diploma or equivalency (the remaining 20 percent), 40 percent will have an associate’s degree or meaningful postsecondary credential, and 40 percent will hold a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree. Under this newest addition, apprenticeships registered with the State Apprenticeship and Training Council now qualify as a meaningful postsecondary credential.
Washington adopted two statewide education attainment goals as part of its 10-year higher education roadmap, which was originally unveiled in 2013. The Washington Student Achievement Council detailed these goals in a report it sent to the legislature in December and includes benchmarks necessary to reach them. The goals are for all Washington adults will have a high school diploma or equivalent and at least 70 percent of Washington adults will have a postsecondary credential.
Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges
Following in the footsteps of more than 20 other states, Colorado also authorized community colleges to offer applied science bachelor’s degrees. While one more state joined a growing list, another decided to step back, momentarily. The Florida legislature placed a one-year moratorium that prohibits the state’s community colleges from adding any new four-year degree programs. With 24 colleges offering a total of 175 degree programs and the number of such degrees awarded doubling in 2013, lawmakers became concerned that colleges were overstepping their bounds.
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Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate