Fall quarter can be an exciting time for students. Nearly 10,000 students attend Cascadia College and Lake Washington Institute of Technology, combined. This year these students, who come to us primarily from the Lake Washington and Northshore school districts, will experience new opportunities thanks to the historic support and investment that our state legislators made in higher education.
With the passing of House Bill 2158 last spring, the legislature reinvested in our community and technical college system in an unprecedented way that will positively impact the lives of our students, and build foundational support for faculty and staff.
This monumental investment in our colleges is an important statement from our state’s leaders that they value hands-on educational opportunities that lead to high-quality careers for more Washingtonians. Since the recession, community and technical colleges have experienced more than a decade of budget cuts that have eroded our state colleges’ ability to serve students in the ways we know best. With this funding, we will be able to provide more students with greater support.
First, we are able to narrow the wage gap between what we pay faculty and staff, and what they can earn working in industry. It’s imperative for us to be able to retain and recruit high-quality faculty and staff to better enhance the student learning experience.
Second, we are looking forward to receiving full funding from the Washington College Grant next year. That expansion will serve more middle-income families who would not have previously been eligible to receive financial assistance. Currently, with the State Need Grant, which is being replaced with the Washington College Grant, the top income limit for a family of four to receive some financial aid is 70 percent of the median family income; that will increase to 100 percent in the fall of 2020.
We will also receive additional funding for Guided Pathways, a strategic undertaking that helps students achieve educational goals that prepare them for future careers. This additional funding will allow us to provide the proven support services — such as more advisers to help guide students through their educational careers — that we know lead to student retention, program completion and ultimately, jobs for our graduates. It will also ensure we have the technology tools to efficiently support these efforts.
It is an exciting time to work in the community and technical college system knowing we have more resources to serve the roughly 370,000 hard-working, deserving students who attend one of our state’s 34 institutions.
We are incredibly grateful to our state’s leaders for recognizing that all levels of education provide an integral part of building and sustaining a strong workforce and viable Washington economy. Our communities are stronger for it.
Dr. Amy Morrison is the president at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Dr. Eric Murray is the president at Cascadia College.