Legislative Work

Legislative Wrap-Up: 2015-17 Operating Budget advances educational attainment

Posted July 10, 2015

The Legislature passed an operating budget that makes important strides toward increasing educational attainment in Washington State. “The students of Washington State are the beneficiaries of sound bipartisan action on the part of Governor Jay Inslee and the state Legislature. The actions by our state elected officials to support educational attainment from cradle to career are unprecedented and key to the health of the state economy,” says Council Chair Maud Daudon. The final budget adds $1.3 billion to K-12 education, reducing class sizes in grades K-3 and expanding full-day kindergarten. The Legislature increased funding for postsecondary education by approximately $292.8 million.

Funding and affordability

The Legislature reduced tuition at public postsecondary institutions. Institutions will receive additional funding to make up for reduced tuition revenue. WSAC staff are actively engaging with lawmakers and the public about impacts of this reduction on the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program. The tuition reduction bill, 2ESSB 5954, directs the GET committee to keep the same payout value for the next two years and gives the committee flexibility to make other changes. The GET committee will discuss different options at their public meeting on Monday July 13. 

The Legislature continued investments in student financial aid. The Legislature maintained its commitment to the College Bound Scholarship program, and the next two cohorts will be fully funded. The Legislature maintained the service level of the State Need Grant program. The operating budget does not include increased funding to serve additional students who qualify for State Need Grant and State Work Study programs. 

The Legislature invested in STEM education. It provided $41 million for the Opportunity Scholarship, a public-private partnership, to match expected private donations. The program provides financial aid to students in high-demand STEM programs. 

The Legislature ensured veterans can continue using their education benefits at Washington’s public postsecondary institutions. Washington is now in compliance with federal requirements in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. WSAC recommended this legislation, and ESSB 5355 was requested by the Governor. If this legislation had not passed, almost 22,000 veterans would have been impacted, which would have jeopardized $56 million in tuition payments to our public postsecondary institutions.

K-12 to postsecondary transitions

The Legislature expanded the reach of dual-credit opportunities. By passing E2SHB 1546, the Legislature clarified definitions related to College in the High School and Running Start dual-credit programs. Funding was provided to expand dual-credit opportunities. 

New initiatives

The Legislature expanded medical education opportunities. The Legislature authorized Washington State University to begin accreditation of a new medical school, providing $2.5 million to launch the effort. The Legislature also provided $8 million for the University of Washington to expand primary care residencies and $9 million to expand WWAMI medical education.

The Legislature directed development of best practices to address sexual violence on college campuses. The Council of Presidents will convene a task force and report back to the Legislature annually.

More information about specific bills is available in our 2015 Legislative Overview. More funding information can be found in this comparison between WSAC's 2014 Strategic Action Plan recommendations and the final operating budget. 


Legislative Engagement

The Washington Student Achievement Council participates in Washington’s legislative process by sponsoring bills, tracking the progress of legislation affecting secondary and postsecondary education, and providing information and analysis used to develop new laws.

2015 Session

Legislative Archives

More Information

The Washington Student Achievement Council is established under Chapter 28B.77 RCW. The enabling legislation (House Bill 2483) also created the legislative Joint Higher Education Committee to review and provide feedback on the work of the Council, to provide recommendations for higher education policy, and to improve communication, coordination, and alignment between the higher education system and the Legislature