House Bill 1546, supported by Governor Jay Inslee, passed 53 to 45 in the House on Tuesday (3/10/15) and now has been referred to the Senate (SB 5086). This bill differentiates between Running Start and College in the High School (CHS). Running Start originally allowed college-ready junior and seniors to take college course work on college campuses, tuition-free, but, over the years, Running Start has been incorporated into some high school programs. This bill stipulates that Running Start courses must not consist solely of high school students; these courses must be open to matriculated students at the postsecondary institution providing the course/instruction. This bill also requires that, for students to earn CHS credit, a comparable course must be offered to matriculated students at the postsecondary institution awarding credit. Additionally, HB 1546 provides a per credit subsidy for CHS students eligible for free or reduced lunch, subject to appropriation, and it institutes a per credit fee limit. According to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), which supports this bill, the funding subsidy is $65/credit for up to 10 credits per year.
Because CHS students often have to pay tuition whereas Running Start students do not, there has been some proliferation of Running Start programs offered solely on high school campuses with courses comprised only of high school students. Proponents of the bill see these changes as leveling the playing field, by providing tuition subsidies for students enrolled in CHS while clearly defining Running Start courses as those that take place on a college campus (or online, open to matriculated college students and Running Start students alike). Opponents argue that eliminating Running Start programs in the high school disadvantages rural students who may not live near a college to take advantage of tuition-free classes and poorer school districts that may not have the resources to set up CHS programs. (Click here for article discussing pros and cons of bill.)
The House is also considering a couple of other bills related to Dual Credit: HB 1031 and 1081, which seek to expand CHS participation to students in grade 10 (eligibility determined in grade 9), and the Senate is proposing a funding model that eliminates tuition for CHS and expands CHS participation to grades 9 and 10 (SB 5080). These bills are all seen as concerning to SBCTC, at least in their current form.