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Originally published Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Washington's new Student Achievement Council promising for higher ed

The state Legislature's intended replacement for the Higher Education Coordinating Board is a governing body with more legislative muscle and connection to the Legislature and colleges and universities.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Higher ed. needs a strong voice in this state. I know there are many people who have a... MORE
Committee, schommittee. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy. It'll probably be costly and... MORE
Stop wasting time and money! How much does this cost? Can't the legislative body call... MORE

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THE state Legislature abolished the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) last year for being overly passive and lacking a clear purpose.

Legislation awaiting Gov. Chris Gregoire's signature replaces the citizens board with a stronger and more focused entity. The new Student Achievement Council promises more vocal and robust leadership to design a higher-education system closely aligned with work force and educational needs.

A clear mission, strong goals and an active role working with the governor, the Legislature and higher-education leaders are at the heart of the bill passed by the House and Senate.

The public voice so critical to conversations about higher education continues with the 10-member council made up of five representatives from the public and one each from the K-12 system, business and private nonprofit universities.

This page disagreed with the elimination of the HECB, though concerns about the panel's minimal authority and ability to adapt were real. As we warned at the time, governance issues would only detract from the funding challenges that remain unresolved today.

Where the HECB seemed doomed to failure because of a poorly written charter, the new council rests upon a strong legislative foundation. State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, managed to consolidate wide-ranging goals of higher-education leaders and lawmakers into a single bill.

Central to the council's success will be the newly created Joint Select Committee on Higher Education. The legislative committee, working closely with the achievement council, ensures the involvement of more lawmakers in addressing the needs of universities and colleges.

Washington's economy has undergone rapid change. Massive unemployment and underemployment have changed the face of higher education's student population. Balancing the needs of the state's two- and four-year schools is critical. The new council has the muscle and analytic capabilities to lead the way.

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