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Washington’s expansive college tuition program intended to build state's workforce

May 09, 2019

The Washington legislature passed a higher education bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature that would provide more aid for state residents attending higher education institutions in the state. The bill could raise nearly $1 billion over four years through an increase in the state’s business and occupation tax. The new legislation differs from other tuition assistance programs in states like New York or Tennessee in that it allows any qualifying state resident who does not already have a bachelor’s degree to earn something less than a full degree at a community college, allows students to go part-time, and covers apprenticeships.

The bill notes that the state is expecting 740,000 job openings by 2021 that will require a post-secondary credential. Currently only 40 percent of the state’s high school students earn such a credential by age 26, while 70 percent is the goal set by industry and business leaders and notes that providing additional resources  for workforce investment is critical in maintaining the state’s competitiveness. The student aid will be funded through the newly created Workforce Education Investment Account. The account will be funded through the state business and occupation tax hike that will affect advanced computing companies in the state, like Microsoft and Amazon, both of which issued statements supporting the effort to increase funding for higher education in the state. Other affected industries include law firms, engineering, insurance carriers, financial services, telecommunications and software publishing.

Washingtonhigher ed, workforce