Increasing higher ed access
Higher education members spoke out in lobby days, committee testimony and emails, and made strides forward. We know that pandemic enrollment declines are in part due to the financial struggles that students face in accessing higher ed. We made sure lawmakers knew how important it is to make our colleges available to all students, regardless of income.
We helped create a $34 million expansion of student financial aid. This is mainly from updating the Median Family Income (MFI) requirement for the Washington College Grant from 55% of the state’s median income to 60%.
Part of this expansion of aid is establishing a Bridge Grant Program, which would add an additional $500 in aid for students who max out on the Washington College Grant program. Bridge grant funding provides supplementary financial support to low-income students to cover higher education expenses.
The legislature also funded $150 million to create the Washington Student Loan Program. This is a new program administered by the Washington Student Achievement Council. It requires a feasibility study by the Student Achievement Council before it can be implemented but would prioritize low-income, higher education students for loans capped at 1% interest.
WA has lagged nationally in financial aid (FAFSA) outreach and completion rates. This year, the legislature invested just under $10 million in outreach to make sure WA students are aware of financial aid available and to support them in support students in filling out the FAFSA.
We also won an update to higher ed faculty ethics rules. The new law, which takes effect in June, allows colleges and universities to create their own policies regarding royalties and honoraria for faculty research and publication.
Winning for higher education is only possible because in WEA-PAC we have a strong non-partisan voice to elect pro-labor, pro-education candidates. It makes a difference when our lawmakers understand the importance of public education and supporting educators. Now is a great time to join educators from across the state in WEA-PAC or to increase your contribution!