Dissonance? Community colleges look for funding increase in 2017; new funding formula means cuts for some, gains for others

Recent headlines suggest transformation in the state’s community college system. Even as the college board seeks funding increases, changes in the way money is distributed to schools will affect academic programming.

On the first point: The Seattle Times reports the colleges are looking for a significant bump – call it catchup-plus – in the next state budget.

The community colleges say they’ve been left out of education funding increases in recent years. State lawmakers have boosted funding for K-12 public schools. They’ve also provided more money for the public four-year universities, allowing them to cut tuition. But community colleges receive less money than they did before the recession.

More than half of the $141 million request that the colleges plan to make — about $81 million — would go toward helping guide students to the finish line.

As they say in Olympia, the increase is a “heavy lift.”

Getting more money from the state Legislature next year is going to be a tough sell, acknowledged Laura McDowell, the state board’s spokeswoman.

To the second point, also reported in the Seattle Times:

Faced with declining enrollments and shrinking state funding, many of Washington’s community colleges will need to cut jobs and rethink the kinds of courses they offer, starting this fall.

Under a new state formula that determines, in part, how much colleges receive for what kinds of courses, a few colleges will get more state money, especially those that offer the kind of workforce training and basic education classes that the new formula favors. But many will get less.

Times education reporter Katherine Long points out the growing discussion of the role of – and funding for – community colleges.

The cuts come at a time when the national conversation centers on making community college tuition-free. In recent years, three states and dozens of communities have established some form of tuition-free community college — including, most recently, Oregon.

We wrote previously of the unsuccessful legislative effort in Olympia last session. It’s likely that discussion will resurface, along with important legislative review of funding and curriculum priorities and accountability throughout the entire education system.

Our Achieve priority states,

By 2020, 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Preparing our students for these opportunities requires high-quality education at every level.

Community and technical colleges will play a key role in assuring Washington students have the necessary postsecondary training and education. Finally, we’re happy to close by pointing out some good news for our tech industry and the students hoping to join it.

Everyone’s heard how Seattle’s hottest companies are constantly scrambling to fill high-tech job openings. A new federal grant aims to ease the shortage — with free coding boot camps for people without college degrees.

On Monday, Seattle Central College won a $3.8 million grant to help students take coding courses that result in paid apprenticeships in Seattle-area startup companies.

The program is expected to reach more than 700 people over a four-year period, with a focus on unemployed people under 30.