2017 - 2018 Legislative Update for Wisconsin Technical Colleges

May 22nd, 2017


Success on Top Budget Priorities in JFC

The Joint Finance Committee held an executive session on the Wisconsin Technical College System budget on Thursday, May 18, supporting our preferred alternatives on both the proposed tuition freeze and proposed changes to the outcomes based funding formula. Further, the Committee placed a permanent 30% cap on outcomes based funding, and boosted funding for need-based Wisconsin Grants for tech college students. The following legislative update summarizes the action taken on WTCS.

Budget papers prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau are found here:

WTCS Budget Papers

HEAB Budget Papers

Items acted upon by Joint Finance:

  1. Tuition and Materials Fee Freeze. The Governor’s bill would have frozen 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 1.4% for next year, and 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 supported need-based financial aid for technical college students, and opposed a tuition freeze. Joint Finance deleted the proposed tuition freeze and, instead, increased funding for need-based Wisconsin Grants by an additional $2.5 million annually—a historic investment WTCS student financial aid. Because the Governor included a general aid increase only to buy down the tuition freeze, rather than as a new investment in technical colleges, the aid increase was deleted along with the tuition freeze. (Motion #204: JFC approved the motion to delete the tuition freeze, delete the related general aid increase, and increase funding for Wisconsin Grants by $2.5 million annually.)
  2. 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. General aid for technical colleges has not increased since 2014-15. While the DBA advocated that Joint Finance both delete the tuition and materials fee freeze, and provide an increase in operations funding, the Governor successfully argued that the funding was intended only to buy down the freeze, and that no new resources should be provided. Operations funding was ultimately deleted, although half of that funding was re-directed by Joint Finance to the underfunded Wisconsin Grants program for tech college students. (Motion #204: JFC approved the motion to delete the tuition freeze, delete the related general aid increase, and increase funding for Wisconsin Grants by $2.5 million annually.)
  3. 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 70/30 split in the last two budget cycles, the Governor twice vetoed the 30% cap. The WTCS budget request was to reinstate the 30% cap. (LFB Paper #676: JFC approved alternatives A.2. and B.2., which places a permanent 30% cap on outcomes based funding and deletes the Governor’s changes to the formula.)
  4. 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. (LFB Paper #676: JFC approved alternatives A.2. and B.2., which places a permanent 30% cap on outcomes based funding and deletes the Governor’s changes to the formula.)
  5. Items still pending in Joint Finance:

  6. 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, and the UW was able to increase their grants by $330 per student in the current year. However, this funding increase would be in addition to the $2.5 million annual increase already approved by Joint Finance, as lawmakers continue to show interest in reducing the WTCS waitlist. (LFB paper #380, to be voted on under the Higher Educational Aids Board on May 23.)
  7. 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 alternative language to allow technical colleges to continue providing locally-established, customized solutions in collaboration with our K-12 partners. (To be addressed in a later paper, under the Department of Public Instruction)
  8. Non-Fiscal Policy Items Previously Removed from the Budget Bill:

  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Other Items of Interest in the Budget Bill:

  15. 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 (1) the programs described above under (a) through (e); and (2) 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. (To be addressed in a later paper, under the Department of Workforce Development)