OLYMPIA – Low- and moderate-income students could go to college or get technical training free in the coming years under a pair of proposals from Gov. Jay Inslee being considered by the Legislature.
One plan, under consideration Tuesday by the House College and Workforce Development Committee, would guarantee all eligible students receive a scholarship at the 65 public and private schools in Washington.
“It is long past due for Washington state to ensure that every low- and middle-income student, who is academically qualified, is not denied the opportunities of a higher education … just because of their income status or our failure to provide them with the student supports necessary to succeed,” Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee.
Inslee wants to change the State Need Grant program to the Washington College Promise Scholarship program and require the state to provide aid to all eligible students. Last year, 25 percent of eligible students, or about 20,000, did not receive a Need Grant because the money ran out.
Students should be able to attend school regardless of their income, Pollet said.
Washington would be the 12th state to implement such a program. States with a similar program saw increased enrollment, increased graduation rates and a decrease in student loan debt, Pollet said.
Eligibility requirements would be the same as the Need Grant. Students from households at or below 70 percent of the state’s median family income would receive a scholarship. Currently, a family of four making $61,500 a year or less would be eligible for some level of scholarship, and those making $44,000 or less could receive maximum aid.
The new program would change the amount of aid. Students at or below 50 percent of median income would be granted full tuition and fees at a public college, university or apprenticeship program, or a like amount at a private college. Students from families between 51 percent and 70 percent of median income would receive prorated scholarships based on income.
Another bill would allow all low- and moderate-income students to attend community and technical colleges for free. It would start a pilot project at five schools in the state and gradually increase those eligible for free tuition each year. The bill would provide free tuition at all community and technical colleges to eligible students by 2024-25.
The College Promise program makes up $103 million of the $282 million Inslee is requesting for higher education in his 2019-21 biennial budget request. The House and Senate are still working on their budget proposals.
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