Washington State House Democrats


Chapman rural jobs bill: One year of free tuition for high-demand fields

OLYMPIA—How can we create jobs in rural counties with persistently high unemployment?

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) says part of the answer is greater access to higher education.

“This is about revitalizing timber country and farm country,” Rep. Chapman said. “Research tells us one year of education beyond high school is the tipping point for people to get family wage jobs. We also know local businesses need workers with advanced skills. This legislation brings those two things together.”

Roughly a third of all jobs are predicted to be what’s referred to as mid-level—more than a high school degree but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. And by the year 2020, experts say 70 percent of all jobs in Washington state will require at least some college education.

“A one-year degree or certificate is the best possible investment in our small towns and counties,” Rep. Chapman said. “Those mid-level jobs are a ticket to the middle class, the kind of job that lets you buy a house and has benefits like health care and retirement.”

A report by the state’s Workforce Training Board listed examples of mid-level jobs in high-demand fields, including firefighters, auto and diesel mechanics, law enforcement, machine tool technicians, teaching assistants, early childhood educators, accounting and computer science.

House Bill 2177 would offer the free year of tuition for high-demand fields in small counties (population of 80,000 or below) with an unemployment rate greater than 8 percent or a median wage of under $18 an hour.


County Population (2016) Unemployment rate (Dec ’16) Median wage (2015)
Adams 19,510 9.1% $16.57
Asotin 22,150 5.1% $16.84
Chelan 75,910 6.3% $15.97
Clallam 73,410 8.1% $18.52
Douglas 40,720 7.7% $15.92
Ferry 7,700 11.5% $18.73
Grays Harbor 72,820 8.8% $18.81
Klickitat 21,270 8.0% $18.74
Lewis 76,890 8.2% $19.46
Okanogan 41,730 8.5% $14.56
Pacific 21,180 8.5% $17.69
Pend Oreille 13,290 8.9% $22.19
Stevens 44,100 8.9% $18.65
Wahkiakum 4,000 9.4% $20.32
Walla Walla 60,730 6.3% $17.29
Total 595,410
State average* 7,183,700 5.2% $23.15
* State data is preliminary, and seasonally adjusted.  County rate is not seasonally adjusted.