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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

December 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students need more help with college costs, state council says

A state council that’s responsible for charting the future of  Washington’s higher education system recommends a big increase in college financial aid programs.

That was one of the recommendations the council recently made to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature, saying more aid would help more Washington students get the training needed to fill jobs in the future.

Inslee followed some of the panel’s recommendations when he released his education budget highlights Monday, but not all of them.

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) is a fairly young state agency, created by former Gov. Chris Gregoire to replace the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Its job is to set goals, and provide a plan every two years to move the state toward those goals.

Earlier this year, the Council endorsed two goals: By 2030, all adults in Washington between the ages of 25 and 44 will have a high school diploma or equivalent; and at least 70 percent of adults in that age group will have a postsecondary credential.

The plan, released this month, makes seven recommendations to policymakers. Among them:

  • Keep increasing financial support for the College Bound Scholarship program, which is designed to lower the financial barriers for low-income students to go to college. The scholarship guarantees such students — who must meet a number of requirements, including a minimum C-average in high school — the  money they’ll need to attend a Washington public college.  Although the program is still in its early years, the first group of students who went through it graduated from high school at higher rates than peers who didn’t sign up. The cost to cover the next group of students, who have signed up in record numbers: $25 million in 2015-17.
  • Provide more money to the State Need Grant program. The state’s student financial aid program serves about 70,000 students each year, but another 30,000 students don’t get any money, even though they qualify for it. The council recommends $16 million be added each year, increasing the pool of students who qualify by 4,000 yearly. The cost: $48 million in 2015-17.
  • Expand dual-credit programs. The report notes that students who earn college credit in high school are more likely to graduate, enroll in college and earn a degree.  The cost of expanding dual-credit programs: $29 million in 2015-17.

Inslee’s budget proposal increases money for College Bound by $25 million, but does not increase the size of the State Need Grant program. The budget does, however, expand College in the High School, a dual-credit program.

Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education

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