Governor signs Rep. Hansen’s bill to to boost college opportunity

More lower- and middle-income students will get a chance to go to college and gain high-demand skills under a bill by Rep. Drew Hansen  that was signed into law April 3 by Gov. Inslee.

 “We believe, as a state and a nation, that every child should have the opportunity to succeed,” Hansen said. “Nothing is more critical to that opportunity and that success in the 21st century than a college education.”

Hansen’s House Bill 2612 strengthens the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a public-private partnership that provides financial aid for low- and middle-income college students from Washington state who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math. Microsoft, Boeing and other corporations have contributed tens of millions of dollars to the program, which also receives state support.

The scholarship was established in 2011 following a Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board report that found that 17 percent of Washington businesses had difficulty filling job vacancies. More than 10,000 employers reported they did not fill vacancies for lack of qualified applicants.

The program is governed by a board that includes prominent business executives and leaders. Hansen’s bill expands the board from seven to 11 members, broadening fundraising outreach to attract more in contributions and send more students to college. It also changes the date for annual scholarship awards to make them more accessible to students, and it reforms the program’s method of investing its funds to generate a potentially greater return and increase scholarship resources.

The bill passed the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.