Budget to provide college funding if passed

By Chloe Wilhelm - Staff Reporter

Funding for the State Need Grant, College Bound Scholarship, and other aspects of higher education would be provided if the Legislature passes the supplemental budget currently being debated in Olympia

The budget, which was originally introduced in the Senate, was passed by the House on Feb. 26 with amendments added to provide more funding in a variety of areas, including higher education.

The Senate did not agree with these changes, so a conference committee was set up on March 3 to come to an agreement regarding the supplemental budget.

The Legislature must agree on and pass a final supplemental budget by March 8, the end of the legislative session.

The original Senate version included $9.8 million for the State Need Grant, $5 million for the College Bound Scholarship, and $18 million for employee compensation at community and technical colleges.

However, this would have an impact on the Running Start program.

The Senate's original budget included an increase in funding for school districts, but does not include an increase for the Running Start program, which would have been $20.7 million.

School districts pay colleges for students who are enrolled through Running Start. However, colleges receive less money for Running Start students than they receive for regular tuition-paying students.

The funding in the House's budget would address this gap.

With the House's budget, the Running Start program would receive this funding, along with $25 million for the State Need Grant, which would fully fund the program within three years.

The State Need Grant is a program that provides need-based financial aid for college students based on income.

In recent years, more students have been eligible for the program than there was funding for.

Every year since 2009, at least 25 percent of eligible students in Washington did not receive the State Need Grant due to a lack of funding. In 2016, more than 24,000 students did not receive the grant, despite their eligibility. 

The budget would also provide $6.9 million for Guided Pathways, which organizes academic programs to help students navigate and work towards their specific academic goals.

State Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who is the chair of the Higher Education Committee, said that the House's budget will have an important impact on higher education, particularly funding for Guided Pathways.

"The House budget fully funds student financial aid over a three-year period and gives community colleges enough money to ramp up Guided Pathways," he said.

"We want everyone in Washington to have a shot at getting the education they need to get a decent job to provide for their families," Rep. Hansen said. "This budget helps advance that goal."

The House and the Senate must come to an agreement on a final supplemental budget by March 8 for the budget to pass.

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