OLYMPIA – Washington will make public college tuition-free for families earning under approximately $50,000/year and significantly expand community colleges after the Legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment Act on Sunday, April 28. This major new workforce education investment will help people get the training and credentials they need for a family-wage job.
The Workforce Education Investment Act will give families making around $50,000 or less (55% of the state’s Median Family Income) a full-tuition scholarship to college or apprenticeship training by creating the Washington College Grant, which incorporates and expands on the State Need Grant. It also provides partial tuition scholarships to families earning up to 100% of Median Family Income (approximately $88,000 for a family of four). The program 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 expanding high-demand degree programs across the state in fields such as nursing, engineering, and computer science.
“We want everyone in Washington state to have access to college or apprenticeships so they can get jobs and provide for their families,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, prime sponsor of the legislation.
Senator Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, the Chair of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee, said, “This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our higher education system. This package will be great both for students to be able to afford college, as well as our state economy by ensuring a highly-qualified workforce.”
“I am incredibly excited that this is part of the budget,” said Leah Mobley, President of the Washington Student Association and student at Central Washington University. “This financial aid package will provide an opportunity for our most disadvantaged students. Now they can pursue their degrees with increased financial security and join the workforce with a lower student debt.”
The Legislature funds these investments with a targeted surcharge on specific sectors that depend on higher education such as law, engineering, technology, and more.
“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.”