Friends, neighbors –  

The COVID-19 crisis has been hard – for all of us. Washingtonians across the state are finding our lives upended; our financial stability disrupted, our loved ones at risk, our friends at a distance. But I have some good news for you regarding our future, current, and former college students (a group of folks who have experienced unique challenges during this time). Washingtonians who are pursuing or who have completed their higher education goals are being looked after by a community – and a Legislature – that wants to see them succeed, no matter what kind of roadblocks COVID-19 puts up. Read on for a comprehensive update about how the higher ed community is adapting to today’s unprecedented challenges in a way that puts students and their families first. 

Oct. 2019 photo with college prez

A few important highlights:

  • Thanks to academic leaders around the state, a COVID-19 FAQ site about public four-year colleges and universities is available.Check it out to get answers to questions like, “How should students approach high school coursework given the transition to remote learning?” and “Is financial aid still available?” 
  • Registrars are continuing to meet end-of-term needs and prepare for summer and fall 2020 registration and deadlines. Information about their process is available on the Washington Student Achievement Council COVID-19 website. 
  • Veteran Center Directors acknowledge the importance of flexibility for veterans who have transitioned to remote learning. The Veterans Affairs Department and the State Approving Agency have committed to allowing accommodations for veterans who are pursuing a higher education degree. 
  • Financial Aid Officers are talking about implementation of and access to emergency grant funds from the federal government. Visit this FAQ site to see how the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is being distributed to colleges in our state. 

College students and access to technology:

The current crisis has underscored inequities and challenges related to broadband connectivity and technology for Washington students. Washington’s colleges and universities are employing a range of approaches and resources to assist students in the transition to remote learning. These include:

  • Increasing the amount of aid to students to reduce financial barriers to accessing broadband services. 
  • Purchasing and lending laptops to students. 
  • Establishing mobile hot spots via public venues (e.g. libraries, etc.), parking lots, and university centers. 
  • Boosting signal strength where possible through a range of access points. 
  • Bolstering student and faculty support services to assist with the transition to remote learning, including advising and technology assistance. 
  • Surveying students to develop proactive responses to emerging issues and challenges. 
  • Supporting and reaching out to state agencies and partners (e.g. K-12 education, libraries, etc.) to provide leadership and assistance through our research and public service missions across the state. 
  • Sharing broadband resources with students and families including, but not limited to, Federal Communication Commission guidance and broadband services and carriers. 
  • Participation in the Washington Internet Access Crisis Team to participate in updates, coordination and prioritization of next steps for addressing digital inclusion gaps. 

Get LIVE updates about Higher Education in our state TOMORROW:

Serving as Chair of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development is an incredible honor. Something I’d been looking forward to – pre-coronavirus – is the opportunity to tour the state and visit with the students, staff, and faculty of different higher education institutions in Washington. (You might remember that last year I visited roughly half of our 34 community and technical colleges and public universities – in addition to a couple private schools. I had big plans to complete the tour by January!) Since in-person visits aren’t possible for the time being, I’ve been keeping in close contact with different members of the higher ed community through Zoom meetings, conference calls, and Facebook updates. 

I’m super excited to invite you to my sixth Facebook Live Zoom Chat, this time with three panelists from the higher education community: a college president, a college student, and the director of a college access program!

Link to event - click here!

I’m looking forward to this conversation (happening TOMORROW 5/6 at 1:00 pm) and can’t wait to hear from these advocates about how the world of higher education is faring throughout this crisis. Have any questions or thoughts to share? Reply to this email or join live to drop your thoughts into the comments. And, if access to Facebook is a challenge for you, respond to this email and let us know so that we can get you the call-in information to join us by phone! 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

All my best,