Running Start Students may start paying

Higher education institutions have more Running Start students than they can afford. In response to the budget shortfall Senate Bill 5572 was proposed to the Legislature. It states that higher education institutions will be given the ability to limit the number of enrolled Running Start students.

On March 2, 2011 the bill was placed on the second reading by Rules Committee according to the Washington State Legislature. The Rules Committee will decide when to hold debate on the bill. With the passing of SB 5572, higher education institutions will have greater control over their profit.

Overall, the President of the college would have to decide how many high school students stay, said Anne Molenda, an advisor for the Running Start program. Gerald Pumphrey, the president of South Puget Sound Community College, repeatedly said it was a decision he wouldn’t want to make, yet knew he may have to. Major budget cuts are coming our way, and SPSCC won’t be able to serve as many students next year, said Pumphrey.

In fall quarter of 2010, SPSCC had to turn away 261 students who couldn’t find classes that were in their field of studies, said Pumphrey.

“These students applied, got admitted, took their placement test, and even went through academic advising,” said Pumphrey.

The only problem these students faced was that they didn’t enroll sooner, a result of SPSCC’s first come first serve method of selection.

The Board of Trustees would be consulted as well in determining if and how many Running Start students will be limited, said Pumphrey.

“This isn’t a decision I’d unilaterally make,” said Pumphrey.

“It becomes an ethical dilemma when you have to choose between two potential students, one a Running Start student and the other who had just been laid off from their job,” said Pumphrey.

This scenario is something that many higher education institutions are facing now due to a high percentage of Running Start students.

About 12 percent of the SPSCC student population are high school students. According to Pumphrey we’re right on the cut-off line.

“I’m not advocating in favor for this bill to be passed,” said Pumphrey.

Pumphrey said he is interested in students who are determined to learn. If there were an easier way to measure an individuals determination to succeed, then that would be the method of selection he would prefer.

Many of the Running Start students choose to be at SPSCC and are serious about their studies, said Pumphrey. The grade point average among the Running Start students is higher than recent high school graduates.

“The only thing that I found wrong with the Running Start program is that I didn’t have access to it when I was in high school,” said Pumphrey. “Nick Steele, a current Running Start student “is an outstanding representative of what the Running Start program can do for students.”

Nick Steele is the Vice President for administration and finance for the student senate. Accompanying President Pumphrey, Steele gave a speech at the Capital in front of nearly 500 people, discussing why tuition should be kept as low as possible.

Steele feels that Community Colleges are supposed to be accepting to everyone. If SB 5572 is passed, then future high school students like him wouldn’t be able to have the opportunities that he’s been given, according to Steele.

“I know for myself Running Start has really helped me branch out,” said Steele.

The school districts pay per full time equivalent student who take 15 credits per quarter. According to Pumphrey, SPSCC gets paid $4,700 for each Running Start student who takes 15 credits for fall, winter, and spring quarter. Running Start students have 1/3 discount.

According to Pumphrey, charging Running Start students 25 percent tuition isn’t going to happen. Presidents of the institutions have found that if they charge Running Start students to attend their college then less high school students will enroll. If the colleges only lost 16 percent of the Running Start students and charged the remaining 84 percent ¼ tuition there would still be a loss in profit, says Pumphrey.