Washington State House Democrats


House budget proposal includes major wins for higher education

OLYMPIA – The state funding backlog for a program providing college financial aid to students from families with low incomes is on track to be fully eliminated under the budget released by House Democrats today. The proposal, which adds $25 million to the State Need Grant for the current biennium and a total of $157 million over four years, would fully fund the program within three years.

“We are finally keeping our promise to students that they will have the financial aid they need so they can get through college and get good jobs to support their families,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who chairs the House Higher Education committee.

The funding is phased in by eliminating the program’s waitlist by one-third each of the next three years. For 2019, one-third of students on the list would be funded. In 2020, two-thirds would be funded, and by 2021 all students would receive funding.

Full funding of the State Need Grant has been a top priority for higher education advocates for years.

“Because of the financial means provided by the State Need Grant, I am able to focus on my studies and navigate the difficulties of college without having to constantly worry about money. To me, it’s unconscionable that there are over 20,000 low-income students like me who are eligible for the State Need Grant but never receive the funds. Income should not be a barrier to education,” said University of Washington Student Senate Speaker Sorana Nance.

Currently, 2800 students at UW alone are eligible to receive the grant but do not because of the backlog in funding.

Another higher education win in the budget is the expansion of access to the Guided Pathways program at the state’s career and technical colleges. Guided Pathways is an academic advising and support services program that helps keep students on track to graduate, with a degree and a trajectory towards employment. Funding for the program is increased by $6.9 million for the current biennium, and by $21 million over 4-years.

“Our goal with guided pathways is to increase completions for all our students,” said Jan Yoshiwara, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “The funding in the House budget proposal will help colleges simplify course choices for students so they move into careers faster and with fewer wasted credits. It’s a wise – and welcome – investment in our students and the communities and employers who count on them.”

The budget proposal is expected to be voted on by the full House later this week.