OLYMPIA – On Friday, April 19, the House Finance Committee passed the Workforce Education Investment Act, which makes major investments into workforce education throughout the state. This act will give families making around $60,000 or less (70% of the state’s Median family Income) a full-tuition scholarship to college or apprenticeship training by dramatically expanding the State Need Grant, renamed as the Washington College Grant. The bill will also provide partial tuition scholarships to families earning up to 100% of Median Family Income (approximately $88,000 for a family of four). The bill also invests in preparing Washington students for Washington jobs by expanding the successful Guided Pathways program at the state’s community and technical colleges and expands high-demand degree programs across the state in fields such as nursing, engineering, and computer science.
“We want everyone in this state to have an opportunity to go to college or through an apprenticeship so they can get a decent job to provide for their family,” said Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), prime sponsor of the legislation.
“Students and families from low-income backgrounds stand to greatly benefit from the Workforce Education Investment Act and the new Washington College Grant,” said Leah Mobley, President of the Washington Student Association and student at Central Washington University. “Providing increased financial aid to our most disadvantaged students will help students pursue their degrees with more financial security and allow students to join the workforce with a lower student debt load.”
The bill funds these investments with a targeted surcharge on specific sectors that depend on higher education such as law, engineering, technology, and more. Some business leaders from these sectors, such as Microsoft President Brad Smith, have called for the state to build and “recession proof” a workforce education fund.
“As a lawyer, my business will have to pay,” said attorney Sans Gilmore, who testified in favor of the bill in a public hearing on March 29. “However, I wouldn’t have been provided the opportunity to get the education that has gotten me where I am today if it weren’t for some form of assistance. The Washington Workforce Education Act will help students pay for their education and get good jobs after they graduate. It is also going to help business who need an educated workforce find the people they need to thrive.”