WA Lawmakers Looking to Boost Financial Aid for College Students

College grants are an essential part of financial aid that provides funding to college students struggling with finances. These grants have become increasingly important in recent years, as the cost of higher education continues to rise, making it difficult for students from low-income families to afford a college education. It is critical to increase the availability of college grants to ensure that students have the financial support they need to pursue their academic dreams.

Unfortunately, many students may not even know that college grants exist or that they qualify for them. This lack of awareness can be particularly pronounced among students from low-income families or first-generation college students, who may not have access to the same level of guidance and support as other students. Despite an estimated 110,000 people receiving the Washington College Grant each year, it is concerning to note that many families who could benefit from this financial aid program are still not receiving assistance. As reported by The Seattle Times, over a quarter (26 percent) of Seattle families earn less than $50,000 annually, indicating a significant need for more financial support to pursue higher education.

State aid for college students is currently underutilized, with declining college enrollments both in the nation and in Washington. The scholarship programs available are adjusted based on the number of eligible students, meaning that there is less funding available for support when fewer students enroll.

According to a report by the Washington Student Achievement Council, college enrollment in the state of Washington has remained below pre-pandemic levels, with community colleges being hit the hardest by the decline. This trend is troubling, as it suggests that many students who could benefit from financial aid programs like scholarships and grants may not be accessing these resources.

In recognition of the importance of the relatively new Washington College Grant, Local Today reports that several bills have been proposed to enhance and expand the program. These bills seek to either extend the duration of the grant or increase the funding available, providing further support to college students who may struggle to afford the high cost of higher education.

The state of Washington is a national leader in providing financial support for higher education, with its scholarship program awarding more than 94,000 students a total of $400 million during the 2021-2022 academic year. This impressive investment in higher education makes Washington’s scholarship program one of the most generous state grant programs in the country. Unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid.

Adán Mendosa, a fifth-year student of Economics and Political Science at Central Washington University, says, “It’s also that big personal aspect where putting off immediately returning to education in order to earn wages so you can have a roof over your head, food on your stomach and support your family is not an option,” pointing out how extending college scholarships could make it less stressful for low-income students to complete their college education.

Before the pandemic, he was attending Columbia Basin College with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution. However, due to financial pressures and the need to support his single mother who was raising four children, he had to postpone his transfer plans. As a result, he was forced to drop from full-time to part-time student status, which made it necessary for him to take additional courses and quarters to complete his academic requirements. 

“Without the Washington College Grant, I wouldn’t be here at college, to put it simply,” Mendosa stated. “It gave me the means to even go to college.”

“Receiving a college grant was a game changer for me,” Katie Chandler, a first-year Bellevue College student, said. “It’s sad that more people don’t talk about it. It allowed me to pursue my academic dreams without having to worry about taking out student loans. The grant covered all of my education, so I was able to focus on my studies and getting a degree without having to worry about financial instability. I wouldn’t even be here, at Bellevue College, without the grant, and I hope that more students can benefit from financial aid programs like this in the future.” 

To apply or learn additional information about the grant, see the Washington Student Achievement Council’s website.