The Husky Promise has kept its financial aid promise to 39,000 students over the past decade. Now the Legislature should follow the University of Washington’s lead and fully fund the State Need Grant.
Over the past decade, 39,000 low-income students have attended the University of Washington tuition-free thanks to the Husky Promise.
The UW scholarship program was designed to help a couple thousand students each year get the rest of the money they needed for tuition after qualifying for state or federal financial aid. But the scholarship program has greatly outpaced those expectations, with about 10,000 students now getting Husky Promise dollars each year.
Meanwhile, Washington State University’s Cougar Commitment is also helping to make college possible for thousands of low-income students on its campuses.
College scholarships are not unique to UW or WSU. Every public and private university offers financial aid to needy students. But UW and WSU make a promise to incoming students that they have never failed to keep: Get accepted to UW or WSU and you won’t have to worry about tuition as long as you qualify for state or federal financial aid.
Unfortunately, part of the success of these scholarships is directly tied to the inadequacy of the state financial-aid program. Every year since 2009, at least a quarter of the students eligible for the Washington State Need Grant did not receive a scholarship because the Legislature did not step up with enough money.
More than 24,000 eligible students didn’t get a State Need Grant in 2016.
Some of these eligible students — from families with household incomes below 70 percent of the state’s median income, or about $60,000 for a family of four — were lucky the Husky Promise or Cougar Commitment was available to them. Others received a scholarship from another school. And some of these aspiring scholars from low-income families just skipped college because they couldn’t afford it. That’s a shame for them and for our state, which needs more highly trained workers.
If the goal is to help more Washington youth earn a degree or complete a career training program after high school, the Legislature is not doing enough to make that happen.
For about $100 million a year, the Legislature could make sure the rest of the students who qualify for a State Need Grant will get state financial aid.
Financial need should not be a barrier at universities, two-year college programs or other kinds of career training needed for Washington jobs of the future.
Every qualified student from a needy family should be able to get enough financial help to get them through the college door.
Our state and our economy benefit from the money spent to help young people from all backgrounds achieve their dreams.