Washington State House Democrats


House Passes Entenman’s Student Basic Needs Act

OLYMPIA—Students can’t learn effectively unless their basic needs are met. House Bill 1559, sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), was passed in the House on March 3, 2023. This bill establishes the Student Basic Needs Act in postsecondary institutions, removing barriers to educational opportunity in Washington.  

In 2020, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) reported that six out of 10 community or technical college students in Washington State experienced hunger or housing insecurity in the previous year, even though most of them were employed. According to the executive director of the SBCTC, students were sleeping in cars, crashing on couches, holding down jobs, and getting food from food banks to make their way through college, understanding that this education would improve their future opportunities. Students of color, students identifying of LGBTQ, and students who had histories of foster care and incarceration were disproportionately represented in the study. Students who are hungry or wondering where they’ll sleep at night have a harder time concentrating on their studies.  

House Bill 1559 establishes the Student Basic Needs Act at postsecondary institutions. This bill implements Student Basic Needs task forces in higher education institutions, requiring them to develop Hunger-Free Campus Strategic Plans. In each plan, the task force must analyze gaps in student needs, design a Benefits Resource Hub, provide access to a campus food pantry, create and update methods to identify food-insecure students, and provide reports to detail the findings. Students need food, water, nutrition, shelter, clothing, physical healthcare, and mental healthcare. “Basic needs should not prevent access to an education for anyone in Washington,” said Entenman. “We must expand educational opportunity and break down prohibitive barriers for our students.” 

This bill has passed in the House and will advance to the Senate for consideration.