Editorial: Promise program would open community college for more

By The Herald Editorial Board

The good news that we’ve reported before, courtesy of a report by the Washington Roundtable, is that between now and 2021 Washington state can expect about 740,000 jobs that will need to be filled, boosting employment and the state’s economy.

There’s a challenge in filling those positions. Only about 150,000 of those jobs will be available to those whose education has topped out at a high school diploma or GED. About 260,000 will be open to those with at least four years of college. But 330,000 of those jobs will require employees with some level of post-secondary education, such as an associate of arts degree from a community college or a training program certification from a state technical college.

Currently, however, only about 31 percent of those completing high school in Washington state will earn post-secondary credentials by the time their 26, as noted by the Roundtable, a policy center led by senior executives of some of the state’s major private employers. The organization has outlined a program to increase that percentage to 70 percent by 2030.

Still among the obstacles for many to post-secondary degrees are the costs of tuition, textbooks and other related costs.

Bills in both the House and Senate, HB 1840 and SB 5666, would establish the Washington Promise program, which, to start, would provide a stipend for tuition and fees for low-income students, eventually expanding the program to students from middle-income families.

The program would serve two goals: It would increase the availability of a post-secondary education for those who, even with other financial aid, still find it difficult to fully fund an education. And the program could encourage those still in high school to earn a diploma with the assurance that they can count on a college education.

Introduced by Seattle Democrats Rep. Gerry Pollet and Sen. David Frockt, the legislation would phase in the Promise program, opening with a “13th year,” up to three quarters of study, for those whose families make less than 70 percent of the state’s median income. As of 2015, Washington state’s median annual income, meaning half made more and half made less, was $62,108.

Eligible students would have to earn a high school diploma or GED and maintain a 2.0 grade point average while enrolled.

In following years, the program would be expanded to two years of tuition and fees and the income eligibility would increase to include those whose families earn no more than 100 percent of the state’s median income.

The program is based on similar statewide Promise programs in Oregon and Tennessee, as well as a “13th year” scholarship offered at South Seattle Community College to graduates of Seattle’s Cleveland, Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach high schools.

The legislation includes provisions for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and the state Institute for Public Policy to gather information on the program and evaluate its effectiveness.

Similar legislation was proposed last year, and advanced through a House committee but no further. One difference between last year’s and this year’s bills: Last year’s bills voided the act if the Legislature failed to fund the program; this year’s bills would ask the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges to implement it at some colleges, suggesting it seek matching support from local governments and private groups.

The value of the program’s investment in students and the state’s economy, however, should be clear to lawmakers, who should allocate the funding in the state’s budget and keep this Promise.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

RGB version
Editorial cartoons for Thursday, May 19

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Ferries pass on a crossing between Mukilteo and Whidbey Island. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)
Editorial: Up to graduates to take us where we want to go

A lack of workers has limited Amtrak and the state ferry system. Graduates need to train for those jobs.

Problem on Highway 99 isn’t speeders; it’s jaywalkers

The Everett City Council passing a resolution to lower speeds on Evergreen… Continue reading

Big difference between ‘my body, my choice’ camps

Regarding a recent letter to the editor regarding rights regarding abortion and… Continue reading

Comment: Laws aimed at trans kids make everyone less safe

Using laws as a weapon against trans kids and families will undermine trust in the justice system.

Comment: What Trump’s election scorecard says about GOP voters

His mixed record on primary endorsements means GOP voters aren’t zombies, but Trumpism isn’t dead.

The COVID-19 ward at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in May 2020. (Andy Bronson / Herald file) 20200519
Editorial: Even after 1 million deaths, covid fight isn’t over

Most of us have put away masks, but case counts are rising again and vigilance is still paramount.

Members of PRISM close out a dance off Friday afternoon at the Stanwood-Camano YMCA in Stanwood, Washington on March 3, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Editorial: Marysville board must keep focus on students’ needs

Discussion of LGBTQ clubs must tune out the culture war noise and focus on students and families.

A tiny homes program that opened in early July began with each unit claimed and a wait list of 60. Here Patrick Diller, head of community partnerships for Pallet, discusses the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project on June 29, 2021 in Everett. (Katie Hayes / Herald file)
Editorial: Edmonds ‘camping’ ban won’t solve homelessness

The city first must be able to offer shelter opportunities before forcing people off the streets.

Most Read