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WV MetroNews – With questions, community college bill heads to W.Va. Senate floor

WV MetroNews – With questions, community college bill heads to W.Va. Senate floor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate’s prime precedence, a proposal for higher monetary entry to community schools, is getting pushback from West Virginia’s four-year schools.

Fairmont State President Mirta Martin was within the viewers for a committee assembly to roll out the community college bill. Afterward, Martin engaged in a hallway dialog with Senate Schooling Chairwoman Patricia Rucker.

Martin was again on the Capitol the very subsequent day, prepared to speak about her considerations concerning the bill.

“For the regional institutions, very candidly, it will put us out of business,” Martin stated in a MetroNews interview.

Martin’s fear is that Senate Bill 1 will present a monetary incentive for college kids to goal for community college when comparable program tracks exist at regional schools.

“The intent of the bill is to put people to work,” she stated. “Not to cannibalize existing programs and existing institutions. It’s to attract more people, not to take a specific group of people and direct them to one area or to one college as opposed to the other.”

The complete Senate is probably going to get thinking about the community college bill Monday on first studying. It is going to take three readings to move the physique. Second studying, modification stage, is probably going to see proposed modifications.

There’s little doubt the bill will move the Senate, however what occurs within the Home is a good greater query. The identical bill acquired nowhere within the Home final yr, and this yr’s speak of the bill hasn’t been as enthusiastic amongst delegates because it has been amongst senators.

The bill would offer funding to repay a profession and technical college scholar’s tuition stability. It has typically been referred to as the “last dollar in” bill.

One among its objectives is to encourage college students to obtain the vocational or technical coaching they could want for rising jobs in industries akin to pure fuel, chemical manufacturing or healthcare.

Martin isn’t towards the bill’s aim of encouraging technical schooling.

“The purpose of the bill is to create an incentive for people to go back to school to receive a certificate for a trade. In other words, we need more welders, we need more plumbers, we need more electricians.

“So the intent of the bill is to entice these individuals who perhaps do not want to go to college but who deserve a meaningful career from which to feed their families and go back to school.”

However she worries concerning the bill’s wording. She notes that a number of the regional schools nonetheless present associates levels however wouldn’t be coated by the bill.

That would offer a monetary incentive to steer college students away from the regional schools and towards neighboring community schools, she contends.

Her concern is that many college students who may need enrolled for 4 years at a regional college might as an alternative go for two years at community college. At greatest, she fears, these college students may switch to end a four-year diploma.

“So if this bill were to pass, the regional institutions would then become a finishing university. That would only afford the regional institutions two years worth of tuition.”

Martin proposes altering the bill in a few potential methods.

One risk is narrowing the definition of the fields topic to the grant cash. Martin envisions together with solely trades taught by community schools. “In the definitions section of the bill you define trade as ‘workforce careers such as welding and electricians and plumbers.’”

Or, she advised, the accepted establishments ought to be broadened. “You delete community and technical schools and you replace it with ‘all public institutions in West Virginia.’”

That debate performed out final week because the community college bill was thought-about by the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Minority Chief Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, raised questions on how the bill would have an effect on regional schools. The district he represents consists of each Fairmont State and Pierpont Community and Technical College.

“We can’t pick winners and losers,” Prezioso stated, echoing a time period typically utilized by his Republican colleagues. “And that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re making colleges pick winners and losers.”

Prezioso is probably going to lead the cost through the modification stage for the bill on the Senate floor.

“I support this bill,” Prezioso stated. “I see the importance of a skilled workforce and an educated workforce. I think we need to make this bill the best we can.”

In Senate Finance, he wound up in a back-and-forth with Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of West Virginia’s community and technical college system.

“You would have no objection if we would move the four-year institutions that have associates degrees?” Prezioso requested.

Sarah Armstrong Tucker

Tucker responded, “It depends on how much money you’re willing to allocate.”

As it’s, the bill is estimated to value the state $7.6 million.

Tucker stated broadening the bill was mentioned final yr, however the concept was dropped due to value issues.

She additionally cited research of an analogous grant program in Tennessee.

An annual report in that state confirmed enrollment at community schools has blossomed — rising by virtually 28 % the primary yr of implementation and virtually 20 % after that.

In the meantime, enrollment at locally-governed establishments fell by 5.6 % from 2014 to 2015. However from 2014 to 2016, enrollment for these schools grew by 1.6 %.

Tucker’s conclusion was that monetary incentives inspired college students who won’t in any other case have opted for college to enter the community college system.

Many have been inspired to proceed towards four-year levels, she stated, sustaining enrollment on the regional schools, too.

“More than 50 percent of our high school students aren’t going anywhere,” Tucker stated. “They’re going nowhere. I think this bill helps us target those students. I just want to make sure we’re not leaving those people out of the conversation.”

One of many advocates for the community college bill has been Senate Schooling Chairwoman Rucker, who was on the opposite aspect of certainly one of Martin’s passionate hallway conversations.

“I am really excited. I think this is really a game-changer,” stated Rucker, R-Jefferson. “And getting more of our citizens to have those work skills and get into the marketplace and get good income jobs, that really is going to make a huge difference in West Virginia in just a few short years.”

And Rucker contends a neater pathway to community college might end in extra college enrollment general. She too cited the expertise in Tennessee.

“In the first, initial year there was a little bit of a reduction to the four-year institutions. But guess what — in the  subsequent years afterwards there was actually an increase,” she stated.

“And we believe it was because a large amount of those students who took advantage of this program to get their associates degree then wanted to continue to go on after that. So it actually fed more into the four-year institutions.”

Rucker shared the priority that increasing this system to embrace regional schools can be financially unfeasible.

“Yes, it really inflated the fiscal note on this legislation to the point that it would almost be impossible for us to afford it. So it really, truly is a question of do we want to at least get started and get it going, or do we want to forget the idea?”

Within the Home of Delegates, conversations appear much less sure concerning the bill. Speaker Roger Hanshaw, when requested prior to the session about Senate Bill 1, extra usually expressed want to enhance workforce improvement in West Virginia.

The brand new Home Schooling Committee chairman, Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, additionally talked extra broadly about workforce improvement, saying he hadn’t but studied most of the bill’s particulars. Hamrick attended Fairmont State.

“The bill coming from the Senate, I have some of the same questions others have asked — to make sure the focus of the bill isn’t just to get associates degrees,” Hamrick stated.

He advocated for parts of the bill overlaying certificate-based packages which have comparatively brief coaching durations however vital wage prospects.

“As long as it’s focused on filling that middle skills gap that we have and getting people more interested in those jobs that we have in West Virginia and increasing participation in the workforce, I think it’s absolutely a great idea.”

Hamrick additionally described the leads to Tennessee as a hit that could possibly be replicated in West Virginia.

“All the facts that I’ve seen look at the program look like a success there,” Hamrick stated. “As long as we’re careful and review all the details of the bill, it could be very vital in helping us close that middle skills gap.”

So the talk picks up this week on Senate Bill 1.

Fairmont State’s Martin hopes the dialog steers towards altering the bill to embrace regional schools or to slender the main target to packages provided solely at community schools.

“We don’t offer certificates in welding or in roofing or in plumbing. That’s what the community colleges offer uniquely, and that’s the original intent of the bill — to get people towards those careers. Well then that needs to be said, that needs to be specified, that needs to be articulated,” she stated.

“Because if it’s not, the unintended consequence will be disastrous for higher education in West Virginia.”

ICYMI: Fairmont President Dr. Mirta Martin joined Dave & Sarah to speak concerning the potential influence of the “Last Dollar In” bill on FSU and extra… https://t.co/v3P38KleB8

— WAJR Information (@WAJRNEWS) January 18, 2019

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