Rep. Gerry Pollet, (D-Seattle), introduced the Washington Promise program in the House (Sens. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) and David Frockt (D-Seattle) have pushed the measure in the Senate), which would provide two years of guaranteed tuition at community and technical colleges for all eligible Washington residents.
“Opening the door to free community college is a proven way to boost high school graduation rates and provide families with a ladder to improved careers and security,” said Rep. Pollet.
Nearly 60% of students with higher education in WA attend a 2 year college. This measure would help these students achieve academic dreams, find good paying jobs, and boost Washington’s economy.
Student loan debt for community college students in Washington doubled in recent years to average $5,600 per year. While tuition was reduced significantly for students at four year schools this year, community and technical college students were provided with only a very small reduction. The average community college student in Washington is over 25 years old, and many community and technical college students cannot complete their degrees because of their rent or child care costs.
“The Washington Promise is our commitment to making sure all Washingtonians can fully participate in today’s knowledge economy,” Sen. Jayapal said. “Our future hinges on having an educated workforce, and yet our state is 39th in the nation for higher education participation. By 2017, unfulfilled job vacancies are expected to reach 50,000 positions in Washington. This is too costly for our families and our state. We can’t afford not to do this.”
Among those testifying were community college presidents, students, and other stakeholders.
North Seattle Community Faline Jett testified “If HB 2820 passes, students like me won’t have to choose between food and an education.”
When fully implemented, the Washington Promise would enable any recent high school graduate to attend community college as well as allowing any adult who does not yet have an Associate degree to either get a career changing workplace training credential or an Associate degree. An essential part of the bill includes providing every new community college student with a proven “college success course” for study skills, financial aid and academic advising.
“The Washington Promise is about creating a new middle class compact with the people of our state to provide them much needed help in developing the skills necessary for getting a good job, and doing so without the imposition of mountains of student loan debt,” said Sen Frockt.
Rep. Pollet emphasized that the Washington Promise should begin to be offered to high school graduates in the coming year to boost high school graduation rates. A phase in for high school graduates who qualify for financial aid but do not currently receive aid would cost just $9 million this coming year, including providing every Promise student with advising and study skills.
The Washington Promise will be made available to all Washington residents who have completed a state or federal application for financial aid. Students pursuing an associate’s degree or technical certificate are eligible for four years after they first begin receiving the grant or upon completion of 120 credit hours.
The measure is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Higher Education at 8:00 a.m.