Higher Ed, Career Pathways & Graduation Congratulations

Dear friends and neighbors, 

During this graduation season, I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates, their families, and dedicated educators. As a proud mom of a high school graduate this year, I know it’s a momentous occasion to celebrate the hard work and achievements of our students and imagine their future endeavors. I thought I’d share some steps we took this session to make higher education more affordable and expand pathways to family wage jobs. 


Enhancing Running Start 

Since its beginnings in 1990, the Running Start program has been wildly successful in preparing students to attend two- and four-year colleges. However, we haven’t had the ability to offer this program to students in the summer when they have extra time on their hands. We passed House Bill 1316, which expands the Running Start program permanently to students over the summer, giving more students an opportunity to go to college with credits to spare or make up needed high school credits.

Supporting Students’ Basic Needs

Half of all college students in Washington experience food or housing insecurity. House Bill 1559 directly addresses this crisis by creating a Benefit Navigator Program at higher education institutions to connect students to assistance programs and establish a pilot program providing meal vouchers. Students need to be able to focus on their education, not a fear of homelessness and hunger. 

Building a Diverse Workforce in Sustainability

This session we created the Washington Climate Corps Network through House Bill 1176 to grow opportunities in clean energy jobs, especially for young adults, veterans, and communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. As we transition to an economy that is fully dependent on renewable energy, it is vital to build good-paying opportunities to meet future demands. The Climate Corps Network provides community service opportunities and an accessible avenue to climate action. 


Expanding Access to Graduate Education

Many areas experiencing a workforce shortage require a graduate degree: behavioral health care, nursing, dentistry, etc. It’s no surprise that prohibitively expensive loans act as a barrier to workforce development. House Bill 1823 directs the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) to implement low-interest graduate student loans for those workforce shortage areas, bridging the financial aid gap to postsecondary education, bolstering Washington’s workforce and promoting equity in education. 

I’m also thrilled to share that we funded scholarships for and the expansion of the UW’s Applied Masters in Child and Adolescent Psychology program, helping meet the dire need for behavioral health professionals working with kids. 

Local Spotlights

Funding for Bellevue College

This legislative session, I helped secure crucial funding for one of our local higher education gems, Bellevue College. The funds will help upgrade their facilities and address other pressing capital needs to ensure a safe and modern learning environment that meets the evolving needs of our students.  

Empowering Female Wrestlers

When Hazen High School wrestler Katie Strickland graduated, she was frustrated by the lack of women’s wrestling programs in higher ed institutions in Washington state. I’m proud to share that this session, we passed SB 5687, the Charles Cate II Act, creating a grant program aimed at helping establish intercollegiate wrestling programs and related scholarships. This legislation creates opportunities for aspiring wrestlers, like Katie, and promotes inclusivity and access to athletic and educational pathways.  


Hazen High School student Katie Strickland, competing in the state wrestling tournament

Let’s keep working together to improve education, expand opportunities, and create a brighter future for all. Congratulations to the 2023 grads!


Senn Sig

Rep. Tana Senn