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Keep higher ed accessible and affordable for all Washington students

Six out of 10 Washington high school students currently go directly to a two- or four-year college following high school graduation.

Research tells us that without some form of postsecondary education, today’s students will find it difficult to earn a living wage. By 2018, two-thirds of the jobs in Washington will require a college degree or career credential.

Yet in the last decade, the cost of going to college in Washington has sky-rocketed. The average price of tuition has gone from 5 percent to 11 percent of median family income. Increasing tuition costs require more students to take out larger student loans to cover the cost of their college degrees. This financial burden can prevent many low- and middle-income students from pursuing higher education and create more barriers to college completion. The continued increase in the number of students needing to take out student loans means that college is becoming more unaffordable for Washington families.

“If changes are not made, we face the serious risk to our economy and democracy of creating two Washingtons — not divided by the Cascades or political parties — but based on educational achievement,” according to a recent report by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

The League of Education Voters is committed to keeping higher education accessible and affordable for all Washington students. During this legislative session, we are working with our partners to protect student aid and expand access to quality post-secondary learning opportunities.

Keeping college affordable can take many different forms in our state, including harnessing rising tuition and ensuring that there are supports in place to help students and families pay for school.

Washington’s GET (Guaranteed Education Tuition) plan is the state’s only college savings tool and one of the only state programs aimed at helping middle class families send their kids to college. It must be preserved. Mend it perhaps, but don’t end it.

For low-income students, Washington’s College Bound Program covers tuition and a modest book allowance for students who attend a Washington two- or four-year college. Over 88,000 Washington State students have enrolled in the College Bound Scholarship program since its inception in 2007. College Bound must be maintained. It is an important tool to closing the higher ed opportunity gap.

During this legislative session, we must do more – not less — to help our students access high-quality postsecondary opportunities so that they are prepared to meet the requirements of Washington’s demanding job market.

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