Washington State Lawmakers Want To Save Seat At Budget Table For Free College
BY MAX WASSERMAN
The question hanging over the Washington state Legislature this winter isn’t so much what laws will pass, but how they’ll be funded.
Behind the biggest policy goal — a bipartisan push for mental health reform — are a number of issues vying for a spot in the Legislature’s budget that will be unveiled in March. Chief among those is a bill that would make college free for certain residents.
But unlike other issues, lawmakers want to make financial aid for higher education an entitlement, meaning its seat in the state budget would be guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
The measure, called the Washington College Promise, would require the state to fund the State Need Grant, which provides higher education financial aid to people with low incomes.
Each year, the grant helps more than 60,000 students attend one of 65 public, private, and community and technical colleges across the state. But in the past decade, the program has struggled to accommodate a surge of applicants.
An estimated 18,000 people will be waitlisted for the program this year, due to insufficient funds needed to sustain the growth in applicants. The total number of students waiting for aid has shrunk since the Legislature provided temporary funding last year. But the program’s future remains shaky, as qualifying students aren’t guaranteed financial aid.
“Sometimes you can get it and sometimes you can’t,” said state Rep. Drew Hansen, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island who sponsors the measure. “From the perspective of students and families this is a mess.”
The Washington Promise, which was requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, would stabilize the program by shoring up funding and increasing aid up to the actual cost of tuition. Funding also would change year to year, depending on how many eligible students apply — currently, people who make less than 70 percent of the state median income who have not gone to college.
“The governor-proposed bill puts the policy into statute, which previously has always been in the budget process, so that will really make it consistent and reliable,” said Rachelle Sharpe, the executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, which oversees the grant.
On the municipal level, Seattle recently passed an education levy that includes more than $40 million to make community and technical college free to all high school graduates.
Should the state effort succeed, Washington would join 11 other states that have already made college education an entitlement to low earners.
Copyright 2019 Northwest News Network
At the University of Idaho, for example, students who receive a vaccine will be allowed to skip mandatory midsemester coronavirus testing. “At this time, we do not plan to require vaccination, but it is highly recommended,” President C. Scott Green and Provost Torrey Lawrence said in a Friday memo to the campus community. Continue Reading For Idaho Colleges, Vaccines Offer Hope Of Eventual Return To More Normal Operations
Rachel Jameton struggled as a new teacher at Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Her colleague, Jane Finan, co-taught biology with her. The two talk about mentorship and how disappointing a teacher can be transformative for a student, in this episode of StoryCorps Northwest, recorded virtually. Continue Reading StoryCorps Northwest: Two Science Professors On The Importance Of Mentorship
Idaho’s colleges and universities logged more than 5,400 coronavirus cases during a turbulent fall semester. All 11 public and private colleges and universities managed to maintain some form of face-to-face learning during the semester — but not without problems: Continue Reading Idaho Colleges Stayed Largely In-Person This Fall. Here’s How The COVID Case Numbers Looked