Students could utilize the proposed program to attend state colleges, including the University of Washington in Seattle. Photo by Punctured Bicycle/Wikimedia

Students could utilize the proposed program to attend state colleges, including the University of Washington in Seattle. Photo by Punctured Bicycle/Wikimedia

Proposed bill would provide free college tuition to some students

The Evergreen Free College Program being called for would benefit both middle-income and low-income students.

A proposal to establish the Evergreen Free College Program would phase in funding to pay tuition for students from low and middle income families.

SB 6101 applies to state residents enrolled in a state university or community college with 45 credits and maintaining a grade point average of 2.0 or above. A student would also have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or Washington Application for State Financial Aid each year.

“Just as important as making sure lowest and lower income children go to college, we need to make sure those in the middle class are not forgotten,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.

He said the State Need Grant, a scholarship program for the lowest income bracket, has done great work in helping low income students go to college, but his bill addresses a critical gap in education funding. In order for the state to be equitable, he said Washington state needs to both fully fund the State Need Grant and provide funding for his bill.

The State Need Grant provides need-based financial aid to students in higher education who have a household income that is less than 70 percent of the state’s median family income, which is based on the number of family members. For example, under on a Washington State Department of Social and Health Services formula, a family of four making less than $5100 per month would qualify.

The proposed Evergreen Free College Program asks for $11.5 million for the biennium that starts in 2019 and a total of less than $14 million for the four-year outlook period. These costs would come out of the general fund. Ranker said it’s a smart investment in the state’s youth.

“It’s a bold step in the right direction and we better take it because the issues of income have become insurmountable,” he said.

Becca Kenna-Schenk is on the Council of Presidents at Western Washington University. She said at least 20,000 students who qualify for the State Need Grant do not receive any help from the government because of the lack of funding to the program.

“The higher education community stands united,” she said. “Fully funding the State Need Grant needs to be a top priority in the legislature.”

The free college program would have a six-step phase-in period based on education level and family income. The period phases in awards starting with one year of support in the 2019-20 academic year and ending with 12 quarters, or about four years of support, in the 2024-25 academic year.

The bill was heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday, Feb. 5 and lawmakers voted to move it on to the Rules Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Washington State also has other programs meant to assist students with low income backgrounds, including the College Bound Scholarship that students apply for in middle school, and the Passport to College Promise Scholarship Program which assists youth emerging from foster care.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

More in Northwest

Horses seized in Enumclaw after allegations of hoarding, abandonment

Sharon Hunter said the horses would be staying on the land for just a few weeks — but it’s alleged she more or less abandoned them there.

Despite concerns, homelessness authority moves toward final Seattle vote

Seattle’s homelessness committee aligned the city’s plan with King County’s.

King County’s current climate action plan was adopted in 2015 and has provided a blueprint for reducing emissions and preparing for climate change. File photo
King County approves environmental justice provision

An update to the King County climate action plan should include an… Continue reading

Homelessness authority approved by King County, awaits Seattle vote

The agreement would consolidate emergency services for people experiencing homelessness.

The King County Courthouse is located at 516 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Council approves $600,000 to increase security at King County Courthouse

The funding will be split evenly between increasing deputies, security and social services.

In this September 2019 photo, George Kirkish, owner and founder of Palouse Winery on Vashon-Maury Island, pours a glass of wine for Lori Coots during tasting room hours. (Kevin Opsahl/Sound Publishing)
King County Council approves controversial winery, brewery ordinance

After five years, the county has updated regulations surrounding alcohol production and tasting.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

Most Read