A new bill with the potential to provide free college education to thousands, recently signed in by governor Jay Inslee, is set to go into effect by April 1st. It adds on to a similar legislature introduced last year, the Workplace Investment Act. Both are designed to feed money into the Washington College Grant, which provides financial support for lower-income students.
The Washington College Grant hopes to guarantee free or reduced tuition for middle to low income students. Depending on family size and the school they’re attending, students from families with under $50,000 yearly income will receive full grants, enough to cover the tuition of eligible public or community colleges, or enough to take a sizable chunk out of the tuition costs of private universities. Thanks to the new bill, partial grants will also be provided for families that make up to $97,000.
Unfortunately, the amount awarded will scale down the larger the size of the student’s family. Full grant amounts also vary between below $3,000 to $10,000 based on the type of school a student is or is planning to attend. Still, the bill has the potential to single handedly provide education for thousands more people in Washington. With no separate application, a FAFSA or WAFSA application is all that is necessary for students to determine their eligibility and be granted awards.
“Not having enough money would have put Washington College Grant program at risk,” Inslee said before he signed the new bill, “and our students certainly deserve better.” Designed to fund the Washington College Grant, the Workforce Investment Act drew Business and Occupation (B&O) tax money from large companies that depend on college education for employment. Upon realization that demand for higher education exceeded the projected $773 million to be raised by last year’s legislature every 4 years, the new bill restructured the B&O tax to add an additional $200 million. Businesses affected by the tax will be paying more overall, particularly larger computing businesses. Like with the previous law, money will primarily make its way to the Washington College Grant, hoping to keep up with higher-than-assumed demand for higher education. In addition to providing financial aid for more students, the new bill also exempts small companies from paying the tax. Instead, it increases taxes on companies that make over a million a year, with the amount increasing the more a business makes.
With costs of college tuition rising and student debt at an all-time high, many who would not have otherwise had the chance are able to continue their education thanks to financial aid from programs like the Washington College Grant. The newly signed bill and the bill preceding it have the potential to completely change the college education scene in Washington. “The bill will protect our historic investments in higher education that the Legislature made in 2019,” Senator Jamie Pederson, the bill’s sponsor, wrote. “Every student in our state will have access to an affordable higher education.”