Last year, Washington made a college affordability promise that, its lawmakers later realized, it might not be able to keep. In May, governor Jay Inslee signed the Workforce Education Investment Act, which would reduce or wipe out tuition costs for about 110,000 eligible low-to-median-income students at colleges and universities beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year. Funding for this Washington College Grant would come from raising the business-and-occupation tax, drawing largely from major companies such as Microsoft and Amazon. One problem: As students began applying for the financial aid, officials grew wary that they wouldn't actually have enough dough to back it.
“We have concerns that we will be able to collect this,” Department of Revenue spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter told the Seattle Times's Hannah Furfaro.
But yesterday, the Washington legislature moved the state one step closer to keeping its word. Senate Bill 6492 revised the complicated tax that had jeopardized its collection and thus the aid itself. With the adjustment, students from families earning up to the state's median income (for a family of four, about $92,000) should all be able to access free or reduced tuition, depending on their income levels.
Inslee, who still has to sign off on the bill before it's officially official, has trumpeted the state as one of the country's most progressive when it comes to higher education funding. In its largest city, the Seattle Promise now allows any student graduating from one of its public high schools to attend Seattle Central, North Seattle and South Seattle community colleges for free, regardless of income.
For all the specifics about how much prospective undergrads can receive to attend UW, Eastern, Evergreen, and other schools under the Washington College Grant, check out the Washington Student Achievement Council's website.