Office of Planning and Budgeting

Last year, SB 5182 officially abolished the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB), replacing it with two new agencies. The change was intended to focus state appropriations on financial assistance for students, and direct a smaller appropriation to coordinated policymaking and planning, directed by a new council with different membership than the HECB’s.

This year, the Legislature passed HB 2483, which amends SB 5182 in several ways. The bill creates the Student Achievement Council, comprised of an Executive Director appointed by the Governor, five citizen members (one of whom must be a student), and one representative each from the four-year public institutions, two-year public colleges, K-12, and a non-profit higher education institution. The new Council is tasked with promoting educational attainment and conducting research and analysis on higher education. The bill also creates a Joint Committee on Higher Education to assess the progress of the Council and propose legislation, made up of four members from each legislative chamber. While the Office of Student Financial Assistance remains, the Office now reports to the Council.

Effectively, this bill changes very little—the Student Achievement Council and the Office of Student Financial Assistance, while both are more focused on financial and governance matters, retain many of the basic duties of the HECB, including:

  • Administer state and federal financial aid, loan programs, and oversee the GET program;
  • Review budget requests of higher education institutions and propose recommendations to the Office of Financial Management and the Legislature;
  • Create strategic plans for higher education;
  • Increase educational attainment and access, particularly for minorities, and set goals for degree production;
  • Engage in higher education policy research, and ensure the quality and accountability of state degree programs;
  • Furnish a prioritized list of capital improvement projects to the Legislature; and,
  • Administer scholarship endowment funds, Washington Scholars Program.

All employees of the HECB were automatically transferred to the Council to assist with its duties, as per the final bill.

The most significant change is that the Office and the Council are relieved of certain reporting and policymaking duties to which the HECB was formerly assigned, such as analyzing technology programs, approving degree programs, estimating annual state support for students and costs associated with higher education delivery. While the Council is relieved of these duties, the strategic planning, system design, and budget recommendation work is ongoing.

To read the bill, please click here.

House Higher Education committee staff published a table today comparing Senate and House bills, which would create the Council office, define its responsibilities, and set membership for its board. While Senate Bill 6232 passed unanimously on February 10, House Ways & Means is set to introduce a substitute on the House bill. Legislative staff published the table to  compare the original House bill, the engrossed second substitute Senate bill, and the proposed House second substitute bill.

This table is available on OPB’s website.