Legislative session

The Washington state legislature ended its 2023 session on April 23, passing robust operating and capital budgets that will strengthen Evergreen and enhance our support for students. 

The budgets reflect Evergreen’s energetic advocacy on behalf of our students, staff and faculty. Many of them, along with Evergreen alumni and board members, engaged directly with legislators over the session. The budgets are also strong evidence of appreciation and respect for the work Evergreen is doing to raise enrollment and improve service to students.

A few budget highlights: we received funding for positions to help students with federal and state financial aid, administer the Native Pathways program, support underrepresented students and coordinate the Early Childhood Education program at Evergreen Tacoma.

Additional funds are earmarked for helping students meet basic needs, overhauling our student-facing IT systems and further developing our corrections education programs. A long-needed renovation of the SEM I building is fully funded, as well as minor works and maintenance accounts that pay the salaries of some staff. We received funding for increases in faculty and staff compensation, and another allocation for represented student workers.

In personal visits and public testimony over the four-month session, President John Carmichael, Director of Government Relations Sandy Kaiser and others made sure to let legislators know about our progress and ambitions for Evergreen.

Senators Mark Mullet, Yasmin Trudeau (a Greener), Emily Randall and Sam Hunt, who represents Evergreen in the 22nd Legislative District offered special support. Representatives Vandana Slatter and Mari Leavitt, along with our local representatives Beth Doglio and Jessica Bateman (a Greener) worked on our behalf throughout the session.  There are many others who also helped us along the way.

Over the interim, we will be continuing to meet with key legislators to update them on the college and hear their views on higher education and Evergreen.

A little more than halfway through the legislative session, we are now past the point where new bills can be introduced other than those necessary for a budget. This is a time where the Senate is hearing bills passed by the House, and the House those passed by the Senate.

Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for the state’s March 20 revenue forecast, which will be used by legislators to shape their budget proposals. The legislature then has until the end of session April 23 to finalize a budget for the state, which will include funding for Evergreen.

Companion bills HB 1291 and SB 5238 that allow Evergreen student employees and those at regional universities to collectively bargain like their counterparts at the University of Washington and Washington State University remain viable. Evergreen supports this legislation.

A bill which gave the Department of Corrections more concrete guidance around prison education did not make it out of the House. The bill was not necessary for Evergreen’s expanding work to assist incarcerated students in achieving their four-year degrees. We continue to engage with legislators from all parts of the political spectrum to educate about and advocate for Evergreen. Evergreen President John Carmichael, Executive Vice President Dexter Gordon and Director of Government Relations Sandy Kaiser attended the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast March 10, connecting with policymakers at one of the most bipartisan annual events on the legislative calendar.

Evergreen’s 2023-2025 budget and growing enrollment were main topics of discussion in a March 10 meeting with Rep. Steve Bergquist (D-Renton), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee.

Evergreen staff and students will be appearing to brief and testify on student fees and wrestling programs in coming days, as we await news on our next budget.

On Friday February 17, the 2023 legislative session reached its first "cut-off" day, the final day where new legislation could be heard and voted on in policy committees. Friday February 24 was the second "cut-off," when the House and Senate fiscal committees had to pass bills onward for them to be viable.

Bills to expand eligibility for state college grants and scholarships for Native American students did not survive the fiscal committees. Bills that made it through supported helping students with basic needs, prison education, collective bargaining for student employees and the development of college wrestling programs.

The session meets the halfway point this week. The next major cut-off is March 8, when bills must be passed from their 'house of origin' to the opposite house for consideration. Another significant upcoming date is March 20, when Washington budget leaders will announce the state’s revenue forecast. That forecast will influence the legislature’s final operating and capital budgets.  

With that as a backdrop, John Carmichael and Sandy Kaiser updated legislators on Evergreen’s progress with enrollment and advocated for our proposed budget. Rep. Joel McEntire (R-Cathlamet) was interested in learning more about Evergreen’s experience with prison education and indicated support for expanding the program. Student housing challenges were a focus for Rep. Frank Chopp (D-Seattle).

Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) is a home-district champion who proudly keeps an Evergreen campus photo in her office. We talked budget with Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-North Seattle) and had extensive discussions on Evergreen priorities with Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue), who leads the House higher education committee.

Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) is another home-district champion for the college whom we updated on campus life and our hopes for the budget. With House Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) we talked about the impact of Evergreen Tacoma and her upcoming town hall meeting there. A first-time visit with Rep. Peter Abbarno (R-Centralia) focused on Evergreen’s positive impact in the 20th legislative district, which includes southern Thurston, most of Lewis and parts of Cowlitz counties.

Incoming Evergreen freshman and Olympia High School wrestling champion Amari Brown and Sandy Kaiser testified on February 15 in favor of Senate Bill 5687, which would create a grant program to support post-secondary wrestling programs in the state. (Go to 20 minutes 15 seconds into the video.) Amari was an outstanding advocate for wrestling and Evergreen. Senator Brad Hawkins (R-East Wenatchee), a former wrestler, was so enthusiastic that he started watching one of Amari's winning matches on YouTube in the middle of the committee meeting.

Whether the bill ultimately passes or not, it was a good moment for Evergreen Geoducks.

With the first month of a four-month legislative session behind us, Evergreen has been engaged on bills that would help students across Washington meet their basic needs and grant scholarships to Native American students.

In conversations with legislators from all parts of the state, we are also talking about the beginning of our enrollment turn-around and underlining the need for strong investment in our students, staff and faculty. We are addressing legislator questions about how, after many years of declining enrollment and tuition revenue, we can get the college on a sustainable long-term footing. 

Some of the initiatives we’re talking about include one-year certificates in business and administration, computer science, environmental solutions, and video and audio production. We’ve started a new early childhood education program at our Tacoma campus.  We’ve done some targeted outreach to people who have earned some college credit but quit before they earned a credential. In partnership with the faculty union, we have an all-hands-on-deck effort to make sure that admitted students know about the pragmatic, personalized education they can get at Evergreen. And we’re working to start up a baccalaureate program serving incarcerated students in Washington state.

On January 27 Evergreen Vice President for Tribal Relations, Arts and Cultures Kara Briggs gave moving testimony to the House Committee on Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development on a bill to establish a Native American scholarship program in our state.  Vice President Briggs, who contributed to the bill’s original language, told how many Washington tribes including her own, the Sauk-Suiattle, lacked the resources to give their members financial support for college. She noted that Native people in Washington are consistently among the poorest people, the least likely to finish high school, and yet the most likely to be needed to take leadership roles in tribes and in urban Indian organizations. This bill is currently in committee. 

Government Relations Director Sandy Kaiser used data provided by Evergreen’s Basic Needs Center to testify January 31 in favor of a bill by Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent) that would expand state support to public colleges to help students meet their basic needs. 

Students across the state and at every institution are struggling to pay for housing, food and utilities, which puts at risk their ability to succeed in college. Evergreen’s data shows how in fiscal year 2022 we helped 44 students who were experiencing hardship, and that 29 of those were able to finish that quarter, 65 percent. We know this kind of quick-response/low-barrier support makes an incredible difference to student success. The bill is currently in committee. 
On February 2, Evergreen trustees Kris Peters and Shane Everbeck joined regents and trustees from Washington’s other public colleges in a day-long series of meetings with multiple legislators. They made the case for continued support for public higher education and waved the Evergreen flag high, noting the unique students we serve and emphasizing the value of an Evergreen education. 

Along with higher education officials from other institutions, Evergreen President John Carmichael presented on enrollment at a Senate higher education committee work session on February 3.  He noted the college’s 17 percent increase in new student enrollment this academic year, while emphasizing that Evergreen still has work to do in raising overall student numbers. Later that day he and Sandy Kaiser met with House higher education chair Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue) to talk about the college’s budget in advance of upcoming recommendations for public college funding.

We’re now two weeks into the 2023 legislative session, which is mostly in-person after two years of remote operations. Evergreen has a new government relations director, positive momentum around enrollment and a fair budget proposed by Governor Inslee that will help us serve students in new and traditional ways.

Former Evergreen Vice President Sandy Kaiser started January 3 as the college’s new government relations director and is working with leadership, staff, faculty, trustees and friends of Evergreen to advocate for the college in important committee meetings, work sessions and representational events.

In these first two weeks, we have deepened our relationships with Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton) and Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue) who respectively lead key committees on higher education. In regular meetings, we remind them of the strong social and economic impact of Evergreen in the region and throughout the state.  We also emphasize the college’s areas of strength, while making the case for additional state investment on behalf of Evergreen students.

A January 11 Senate higher education work session on measuring campus climate featured Associate Vice President for Student Success Therese Saliba presenting Evergreen survey data on how students, staff and faculty assessed different aspects of well-being. Evergreen is a leader in this area. The legislature would like all public four-year institutions to conduct similar surveys and use the data to improve experiences.

At a January 19 Governor’s Mansion reception hosted by the presidents of all the state’s four-year public institutions, Evergreen President John Carmichael and Sandy connected with several new legislators including newly ranking higher-ed committee member Rep. Alex Ybarra (R-Moses Lake), Sen. Nikki Torres (R-Pasco) and Rep. Chipalo Street (D-Seattle). The legislators are eager to visit campus and learn more about Evergreen. Sandy’s in-person pro-Evergreen budget testimony in the state Senate Ways and Means committee was noted by Sen. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake), who encouraged Evergreen to keep speaking up.

On February 2, regents and trustees from the state’s colleges will converge on the state capital to lobby and advocate for their institutions. We are proud to have Evergreen trustees Kris Peters (chair of the Squaxin Island Tribe) and Shane Everbeck (Evergreen senior) representing us. On February 3, John Carmichael and Chief Enrollment Officer John Reed will be part of a Senate higher-ed work session that will look at national, statewide and local college enrollment trends.

The Governor released his budget proposals for the 2023-25 biennium. These proposed budgets include nearly all of Evergreen's budget requests for the biennium.

Operating Budget

  • Compensation
  • Enrollment and Student Success ($1.3 million)
  • Corrections Education ($1 million)
  • Modernization ($2.3 million)

Capital Budget

  • Full funding of the Seminar I Major Renovation ($25 million)
  • Minor works

While this budget proposal is the first step in the process, it is a good sign that Evergreen's priorities have been included. The legislature will convene on January 9th, 2023 for the beginning of a 105 day legislative session. House and Senate budget proposals are expected sometime in March. While revenue forecasts are looking good, compensation requests to keep up with inflation will likely strain the legislature's ability to spend on new initiatives.

Hello and happy fall 2022. This update will provide a brief overview of legislative related activities during the 2022 interim and some good news about campus!

Interim has been busy – starting with Governor Inslee visiting in April to talk with justice involved students, Evergreen leadership and top officials from Department of Corrections and the Washington Student Achievement Council. Next, Congressman Derek Kilmer visited Tacoma to meet with students and learn more about the barriers students are facing in accessing higher education. Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland paid the Olympia campus a visit to familiarize herself with ongoing projects and services that support students in the South Sound region. Meetings with legislators have also taken place throughout interim with visits to Representative Leavitt in University Place, Senator Mullet in Issaquah, and Representative Slatter in Bellevue as well as various meetings conducted virtually!

Finally, all six presidents of public four-year higher education institutions gathered in Bellingham to discuss priorities for the coming biennium.

On campus, good news abounds as we enter the 2022-23 academic year. Enrollment among the incoming class grew by 17% since the previous year, this is the largest increase since the year 2000!

Additionally, Evergreen was recently ranked No.1 in the Washington Monthly college rankings. This ranking system looks at social mobility of students, impact of research, and contribution to the public good – these items closely align with our values and we’re glad to be recognized in this way.

Finally, Evergreen was awarded a $2.1 million Title III grant from the federal government. The funds will be used to improve our holistic advising system, providing wrap around supports to students. Direct help with advising, career planning, and navigating the college experience is especially important for historically underserved populations. 80% of our student body comes from one or more underserved background (low income, first generation, students of color, students with disabilities, etc.).

At this point in fall, election day looms large. Legislative committees are set to meet at the end of November and soon after those meetings legislative leaders will meet to decide committee make up for the coming biennium.

Stay tuned to learn more about Evergreen’s priorities for the 2023-25 biennium!