Inslee details plan to create a statewide free college program for Washington students

Transforming the State Need Grant to Washington College Promise

Following a roundtable with a small group of college students, Gov. Jay Inslee detailed his plan today to transform the State Need Grant into Washington’s College Promise grant, a guaranteed source of financial aid for more than 93,000 eligible students.

The State Need Grant is currently the foundation of Washington’s financial aid system. But the Legislature has chronically underfunded the program, and over the last decade about one out of four eligible students who applied have not received the grant. This leaves tens of thousands of students on a waitlist for financial aid. In changing the program to Washington College Promise, the state will fully fund the program and restructure the legal framework behind it to guarantee that it stays fully funded.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Drew Hansen hear from students at the University of Washington, Tacoma, January 11, 2019 (Office of the Governor photo)

Washington College Promise will guarantee students the funds to go to school so long as they meet the income eligibility requirements and attend an eligible institution or program. The program will also offer financial aid to apprentices that demonstrate financial need. The stability of the new program will ensure that eligible students receive funding for college in future years, which provides more stability and predictability for them and their families, and improves a student’s ability to successfully graduate.

“Every student in Washington state should have the opportunity to get the higher education they need. I’m excited to talk about the big steps we’re taking to make this opportunity a reality,” said Inslee. “A student’s financial situation should not prohibit them from pursuing their dreams. The Washington College Promise scholarship is our next step in making sure our students can compete for the careers of tomorrow.”

The students who met with Inslee told him that when aid isn’t available, students have to make hard choices that can impact their studies and have long-term impacts on their lives. They may work more hours, take out more debt, and sometimes they choose to pay tuition rather than pay for food or housing.

“Governor Inslee’s College Promise proposal will support all students who want to attend college to go, regardless of their financial ability to pay tuition,” said Maud Daudon, chair of the Washington Student Achievement Council. “With a growing economy and plenty of opportunity for Washington students, this proposal comes at a very critical time to help close the gap for students and prepare them for career and life success.”

Like the State Need Grant, the Washington College Promise will allow students to use the financial aid funds to attend the institution and program of their choice. Funds can also be used in tandem with other financial aid to help pay for costs associated with higher education, like books, class supplies and housing.

VIDEO: Inslee and other speakers detail Washington College Promise

Investing in Washington’s future

Inslee’s proposed 2019–21 budget invests over $280 million in higher education. In line with the legislature’s four-year outlook to fund the State Need Grant, the budget includes $103 million to fully fund the program, serve the additional 18,000 students who are currently eligible but unserved, and convert it to the Washington College Promise scholarship program.

In addition to Washington College Promise, Inslee’s budget funds other investments for higher education. This includes additional investments for compensation, provides funding the Guided Pathways community and technical college initiative to help more students complete their programs at community and technical colleges, adds capacity for STEM courses and other high-demand fields, builds a behavioral health workforce, adds foundational support for undergraduate studies and supports academic program enhancements.

See the 2019–21 budget highlights for higher education.

One student’s story: invest in Washington state students and we will achieve our dreams

Daniela Suarez is a junior at the University of Washington, but without financial aid, she may never have had the opportunity to go to college. She didn’t know how she would make it to college, but she always knew she wanted to.

Video courtesy of College Promise Coalition.

Suarez says that financial aid gave her the opportunity to do an internship and focus on her studies instead of working. Today she is an international studies major full of drive to achieve her dreams.