Media Release: College Promise Scholarship moving forward in Legislature, funding questions remain

College Promise Scholarship moving forward in Legislature, funding questions remain

March 14, 2019

Olympia—Last weekend, the Washington State Senate passed a bill off the floor to establish a statewide free college program (SB 5393). The bill refashions the State Need Grant into the Washington College Promise Scholarship and makes the program an entitlement for the lowest-income students.

“Congratulations to the Senate for increasing access to post-secondary education for more Washington residents of all ages,” said Michael P. Meotti, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council. “We hope that the legislature will be able to match the Governor’s approach to making the scholarship a commitment to all eligible students.”

“The commitment, or entitlement, is crucial to making the promise of college a reality for all students,” said Meotti. “We have 18,000 people who are eligible—they’re applying for financial aid, they’re enrolled—and they’re not getting the financial help they deserve and need.”

Over the last decade, an average of 20,000 eligible students did not receive the grant due to a lack of state funding. Those who receive the grant one year can’t be certain that they’ll receive it again. This is not a stable or dependable way for the state to provide need-based aid to students.

The state knows the value of State Need Grant. Research shows that students who receive State Need Grant are more likely to finish their degree and have less debt when they graduate. That degree positions graduates to a lifetime of increased earnings compared to those who stop at a high school diploma. Whereas a high school graduate might expect lifetime earnings of $1.3 million, those with an associate or bachelor’s degree can expect lifetime earnings of $1.7 to $2.3 million.

Workforce demand further underscores the need for investment in financial aid programs that increase educational attainment. Within the next five years, 70 percent of the jobs in Washington will require some education or training after high school. Currently, only 53 percent of adults age 25-44 have a postsecondary credential. The Senate bill is a big policy step toward delivering on the promise of postsecondary education.

Source: Canevale, Anthony P., Stephen J. Rose, and Ban Cheah. "Executive Summary: The College Payoff." Accessed March 13, 2019. goo.gl/m1fL2g

About the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC)

The Washington Student Achievement Council is committed to increasing educational opportunities and attainment in Washington.