WTCS Budget Standing Improved by
JFC’s Removal of
Non-Fiscal Policy Items
On April 6, the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee announced 83 non-fiscal policy items would be removed from the budget bill prior to the Committee beginning its work on the 2017-19 budget. Several of the announced items were provisions that the District Boards Association advocated be removed from the bill. Details of those provisions follow.
The Joint Finance Committee heard agency testimony on the budget during the last week of March. WTCS President Morna Foy addressed the Committee and answered questions on March 30. In April, the Committee is holding a series of six budget hearings around the state to gather public input on budget provisions. The remaining hearings will be:
Tuesday, April 18
Spooner High School, Spooner
Wednesday, April 19
Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth
Friday, April 21
Marinette High School, Marinette
Non-Fiscal Policy Items Removed from the Budget Bill:
Reduced In-District Tuition Rate. The Governor’s bill would have allowed district boards to charge students who reside in the district uniform tuition and material fees that are less than the tuition and material fees established by the System Board. This provision would have encouraged the colleges to compete rather than collaborate, and could lead to pressure at the local level to unnecessarily duplicate programs in order to provide lower prices to local students. The DBA supports the Co-Chairs’ removal of this item from the budget.
Shared Services—IT. The Governor’s bill would have required all servers used by executive branch agencies, except the UW System, to be physically located at the state facility on Femrite Drive in Madison. The Department of Administration (DOA) would then be permitted to charge WTCS fees for locating the servers in their facility. Based on the Administration’s shared services plan from the 2015-17 budget, DOA could then charge fees estimated at $800,000 annually before allowing WTCS to access the student data housed on those servers, in order to generate the many reports currently required by law and administrative code. The System would have been forced to loosen data security protocols, and expose large databases to Internet hacking, rather than accessing and analyzing information internally on a closed system. The DBA supports the Co-Chairs’ removal of this item from the budget.
Performance Funding Report Card. The Governor’s bill would have created a performance funding “report card,” based on the report card created for UW under the bill, and in addition to the WTCS outcomes based funding report that has been required under current law for three years. The “report card” for each college must be a single page, and do all of the following: (a) summarize the college’s performance in the prior year on the 10 outcomes criteria, and any other metrics specified by the System Board; (b) compare the performance of the college with the performance of other colleges; and (c) include any additional information the System Board may require, including information from the new accountability report. The bill would require each college to update the report card at the end of each semester and to “prominently link” to the evaluation from the college’s homepage. It should be noted that it is not currently possible to update this data on a semester basis. The DBA supports the Co-Chairs’ removal of this item from the budget.
Accountability Report. The Governor’s bill would have required that annually by December 31, the System Board submit an accountability report to the Governor and to the Legislature, and require that the report include all of the following information for each technical college, and for the System as a whole: (a) for each program that awards a diploma or degree, the program graduation rate, total number of graduates, the time needed for graduation, retention rates, and job placement of graduates; (b) the percentage of residents and nonresidents who reside in this state 10 years after graduation; (c) the number of degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded in high-demand fields according to the outcomes based funding formula; (d) financial reports prepared using generally accepted accounting principles; (e) a profile of enrolled students, including mean per capita family income, the percentage of residents and nonresidents who are low-income, the percentage of residents and nonresidents who are members of minority groups, the number of transfers from other institutions of higher education within this state, a description of any improvements made in the transfer of credit between institutions of higher education, the number of high school pupils who have earned credit, the published cost for resident students and the actual cost for resident students once financial aid is subtracted, and increases in available institutional financial aid for students with demonstrated need; (f) for the collegiate transfer program, the extent of access to courses required for “popular undergraduate majors,” improvements in overall student experience, efforts to close the achievement gap between majority and underrepresented minority students, the number of students participating in internships or cooperative work experiences, and post-graduation success; (g) a profile of the faculty, including faculty teaching loads, success or failure in recruiting and retaining teachers, and teachers who are rated at the top of their fields; (h) partnerships and collaborative relationships among technical colleges and employers, state and local governments, or school districts; and (i) the goals, results, and budget for each program for which the Board has awarded an incentive grant under the categorical block grant and a summary of this information.
It should be noted that the WTCS and the technical colleges are currently one of the most transparent and accountable organizations in the state, providing unparalleled outcomes-based funding data on each college, a 6-month graduate outcomes report, showing greater than 93% of graduates employed and $41,000 median annual income for associate degree graduates, and a 5-year graduate follow-up report. The DBA supports the Co-Chairs’ removal of this item from the budget.
Universal Credit Transfer Agreement. The Governor’s bill would have increased from 30 to 60 the number of general education credits that are guaranteed as universally transferable between and within the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System, beginning in 2018-19. Under the bill, core general education courses completed by high school students enrolled through the new Early College Credit program (created under the bill, formerly known as Course Options/Youth Options) would have been included in the agreement. The DBA supports greater flexibility and opportunity for students, including for students transferring into, and out of, the WTCS.
Items remaining in the Budget Bill supported by the DBA:
General Aid for Technical Colleges. The budget bill would provide $5.0 million annually above base level funding of $88.5 million (for a total of $93.5 million in 2017-18 and $93.5 million in 2018-19) for state general aid for technical colleges. The WTCS budget request was for $5.0 million in 2017-18 and $10.0 million in 2018-19 (for a total of $98.5 million in 2018-19) for this purpose.
Permanent 30% Cap on Outcomes Based Funding. The bill would specify that the current distribution of general aid, 70% through the statutory formula and 30% through the outcomes based formula, would continue in 2017-18 and thereafter. While the Legislature has twice approved the 70/300 split in the last two budget cycles, the Governor twice vetoed the 30% cap. The WTCS budget request was to reinstate the 30% cap.
Wisconsin Grants for Technical College Students. The bill would increase funding for Wisconsin Grants (WG-TCS) by $708,500 in 2017-18 and $1,173,800 in 2018-19 (for a total of $20,006,400 in 2017-18 and $20,471,700 in 2018-19). These amounts constitute a 4.9% increase over the base year doubled. The UW grant appropriation and the private colleges and universities’ grant appropriation were each increased by the same percentage, even though those programs are already fully funded. Meaning, the WTCS program will continue to have a substantial wait list of thousands of students who receive no funding, while the other two programs will likely be permitted to increase the amount of the grants received by their students.
Items remaining in the Budget Bill opposed by the DBA:
Changes to the Outcomes Based Funding Formula. The bill would modify the current law outcomes based funding formula (called “performance funding” in the bill language) to eliminate the current distribution method beginning in 2018-19, while keeping the 10 criteria for funding specified under the law. The bill would replace the current law formula--approved by the Joint Committee on Finance--with a formula that instead would: (a) be based on one year of data, rather than three years of data; (b) require funding be based on all 10 criteria, rather than seven of 10 criteria selected by the college; and (c) mandate the amount of funding allocated to each category.
Criteria would be weighted as follows: (1) 10.5% of the appropriation ($9,821,200) based on “affordability and attainability,” meaning the current dual enrollment and credit for prior learning criteria; (2) 10.5% ($9,821,200) based on “workforce readiness,” meaning job placement rate, credentials awarded in high demand fields, programs with industry-validated curriculum, and workforce training provided to businesses and individuals; (3) 3% ($2,806,000) based on “efficiency,” meaning participation in collaboration and efficiency initiatives; and (4) 6% ($5,612,100) based on “student success in state workforce,” meaning Adult Basic Education (ABE) success, ABE transitions to skills training, and services to special populations. The bill would require approval by the Secretary of the Department of Administration prior to the new formula’s implementation.
After less than three years of implementation, the current WTCS OBF formula is a nationally recognized model, created with stakeholder input and support, and has been tested and proven to be successful—so far producing increases of 11% in industry-validated degrees; 13% in workforce training; and 27% in dual credits. The DBA supports the current law OBF formula, and is seeking to have these changes removed from the budget bill.
Tuition and Materials Fee Freeze. The bill would freeze technical college tuition and materials fees at the 2016-17 level. The System Board has long prioritized affordability and access when setting tuition, allowing increases of only 1.5%, 2%, and 3% over the past three years. WTCS Student Government has consistently supported increased need-based financial aid as a means to address college affordability, while opposing a tuition freeze. The DBA likewise supports need-based financial aid for technical college students, and opposes a tuition freeze.
Early College Credit Program. The bill would combine the current law Course Options and Youth Options programs into a single Early College program for high school students enrolling in college courses. The tuition charged for credit could not exceed 1/3 of regular in-state tuition, which for technical colleges equals around $43. The cost of the 1/3 tuition would be split between the school district, the student’s family, and a prorated appropriation under the Department of Workforce Development. WTCS granted more than 127,000 college credits to over 32,000 high school students last year—a 68% increase over the last 5 years. Approximately 85% of those credits were awarded under “transcripted credit,” a program unique to WTCS that is cost-neutral for high schools and free to students. However, in the other 15% of courses, WTCS frequently provides dual enrollment occupational academies to high schools, taught by WTCS instructors, and often using WTCS facilities. Many high schools have not maintained up to date CTE facilities, or have trouble finding qualified CTE instructors. In those cases, school districts find that paying tuition in order to make WTCS dual enrollment academies available to their students provides a good value. The DBA supports continuing to allow technical colleges to provide these types of locally-established, customized solutions to our K-12 partners. There is no need to legislate changes to a program that’s working for everyone.
Other Items of Interest in the Budget Bill:
Technical College Set-Asides under the Fast Forward Program. The bill expands the list of eligible uses of Fast Forward funds under the Department of Workforce Development to include: (a) collaborative projects between technical colleges, businesses, and K-12 to provide high school students with industry-recognized certifications in high demand fields as defined by DWD; (b) grants for programs that train teachers and that train individuals to become teachers, including teachers in dual enrollment programs; (c) grants for the development of public-private partnerships designed to improve workforce retention through employee support and training; (d) grants to nonprofits, colleges and universities, and employers to increase the number of students placed with employers for internships; and (e) grants to community-based organizations for public-private partnerships to create and implement a nursing training program for middle school and high school students. “Dual enrollment” would be defined to mean a program for high school students to gain credits in both technical college and high school, including transcripted credit program or other programs provided by contract between a technical college and school district. “Teacher” would include a technical college instructor.
In addition, DWD would be required to allocate not less than $5.0 million in 2017-18 for grants to technical colleges for (a) the programs described above under (a) through (e); (b) grants to technical colleges under the current law Fast Forward program to train unemployed and underemployed workers and incumbent employees of businesses in the state.