Four Washington state college students urge the Legislature to fully fund the State Need Grant so that all eligible lower-income students have the opportunity to go to college.

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STUDENTS from across the state traveled earlier this month to Olympia to advocate for full funding of the Washington State Need Grant. We called it Student Advocacy Day, and more than 150 of us lobbied our legislators.

We came from high schools, private four-year institutions, public research and regional institutions, and community and technical colleges. We spent the day testifying and meeting with legislators to share our personal stories of how the grant has affected the trajectory of our lives. Many legislators said they recognized the significant positive benefit this financial aid program provides for low-income students and the state. But too many remain uncommitted to providing the funding to serve the 24,000 eligible but currently unserved students.

We urge the Legislature to fully fund the State Need Grant so that all eligible students have the opportunity to go to college. The State Need Grant is, simply put, a lifesaver for many students. Without the grant, lower-income students like us could not pursue higher education, or if they do, they struggle to make ends meet, often dropping out before completion.

Many of us are the first in our family to attend college, and our families lack the financial resources to support our education and career dreams. Everyone who has a desire to further their education should have that opportunity; lack of funds should not be the determining factor. Receiving the grant allows us to devote our efforts to our studies, focusing on graduating on time and in good standing. With financial assistance from the state, we are able to thrive.

In addition to receiving the opportunity for higher education to better our lives, the State Need Grant program is a smart investment for the state, as well. Need Grant recipients are a cross-section of the state. We come from every community; we represent all backgrounds, all ethnicities and all areas of study. We are documented and undocumented, first generation, traditional and nontraditional students. We will become Washington’s doctors, educators, engineers, policymakers, and police officers. We are Washington’s future, and we are worth the investment.

Our experiences in Olympia showed us that using our voices as students can have a positive impact. We stand with eligible students who do not receive a grant and ask that they be afforded the same opportunities we have been.

We strongly urge the Legislature to fully fund the Washington State Need Grant. An investment in Washington’s college students is a smart investment in Washington’s future. Without full funding, the grant’s intended reach cannot be fully realized, and real students’ lives will be negatively altered. Funding the State Need Grant will help extend the opportunity for success in higher education to all students regardless of their income. It is the right thing to do for students, and the right thing to do for Washington.