Our successful Regents and Trustees Day has come and passed. The annual tradition allows for regents and trustees from both the public four-year baccalaureate colleges and universities and community and technical colleges to meet with state legislators and discuss major issues facing the higher education sector. Across multiple meetings, 10 regents and trustees met with groups of policymakers from all four caucuses.
In December, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Council of Presidents authored the 2022 Joint Legislative Agenda, laying out three big issues for the session. These issues include compensation for faculty and employees, high demand program expansion, and learning recovery. Regents and trustees used their time on Tuesday to dig into these issues with legislators. Although the pandemic has moved these meetings online, they continue to be a meaningful way for higher education and legislative leaders to work together on the major issues facing students and our state.
What Is a Regent/Trustee?
Regents and trustees make up the governing boards of colleges and universities. They have broad responsibilities that usually include supervising, coordinating, managing, and regulating their college or university. The UW and WSU have 10-member boards, called regents. The regional universities and Evergreen have 8-member boards, called trustees. Each group has a seat reserved for a current student. These members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Both regents and trustees serve 6-year terms, and each student member serves a 1-year term. Each community or technical college board is composed of five members who are appointed for five-year terms.
What Are the Important Issues During the 2022 Legislative Session?
- Compensation for Vital Faculty & Employees – Due to revenue uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the current biennial budget does not include a salary adjustment for most higher education employees. Recent state revenue forecasts reflect a rebounding economy, and the four-year public universities and SBCTC are requesting modest salary adjustments in FY23. These adjustments will allow our vital faculty and staff to continue to live and work in our state and help our institutions remain competitive. It is vital that the state continues to fund at least the majority of our incremental wage increases and central services with state funding in FY23 and beyond.
- High Demand Program Expansion – The pandemic has brought attention to both the changing needs of employers and to our state’s workforce shortages. More retirements and resignations are not only leaving employers short-staffed, but also placing new burdens on remaining workers. Employers need professionals at all levels of credentialing, particularly in high-wage STEM fields. Washington students and institutions are seeking out high demand fields such as cybersecurity, computer science, nursing, and behavioral and mental health Washington’s public colleges and universities are requesting funding requests, to help improve the prosperity of our residents and position Washington to meet the needs of a post-pandemic economy.
- Learning Recovery – The lasting impacts of pandemic-related disruptions are happening at the same time as campuses are experiencing declining enrollments, decreased FAFSA/WASFA filing, and increased demand for remedial courses. In addition, pandemic-exacerbated equity gaps continue to disproportionately affect students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. Campuses continue to invest in student support and learning recovery strategies in the areas of outreach and recruitment, FAFSA/WASFA completion and financial aid counseling, housing insecurity, mental health support and academic advising that are proven to expand access and improve student success.
We are in the midst of the 60-day, supplemental legislative session, scheduled to Sine Die Thursday, March 10th. With the last day to consider (pass) bills in their house of origin just over two weeks away (Tuesday, February 15th), legislators are making progress on a range of issues. As our state’s economy bounces back and pandemic recovery continues, our institutions look toward their next chapter. Now, we look to our Legislature to help accelerate the recovery in higher education, a key piece of our state’s economic health.
You can read more about the important issues of this session with COP’s 2022 Bill Tracker.
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