Higher education opens the door to opportunities and well-paying jobs – for our children, our workers, and for our local businesses and hospitals, as they face a shortage of workers with the right skills and credentials.
It’s time to tear down some long-standing barriers to higher education for Washington students and families. This would better support the idea that a post-secondary degree or diploma is available to anyone willing to study hard and get the job done.
So what can we do now?
Student loans are the most common barrier to opportunity, with punitive interest rates of up to 15% per year. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of students graduating with five- or even six-figure student debt, which can put things like home ownership out of reach.
Debt is even higher for graduate students, who bear 40% of student debt despite representing only 15% of the higher education population. At a time when our state desperately needs more doctors, dentists, engineers, and other trained professionals, this is clearly a problem.
The second barrier is almost invisible, which presents a challenge. To apply to any college, a student must complete the Federal Financial Aid Form, or FAFSA. It’s complicated, and no 17- or 18-year-old can’t be expected to finish it alone. They need help.
If a student’s family doesn’t know about this form, how to complete it, and what the deadline is, then their college dreams may end before they even begin. Washington is 49th out of 50 states to complete the FAFSA, and those that didn’t complete the form missed out on about $50 million in college grants and low-cost loans.
The final hurdle is the rising prices of everything except tuition: room and board, books, transportation, and food. About half of all freshmen dropped out before graduation, usually for financial reasons.
It’s time to break down these three barriers to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone in our great state.
Students shouldn’t be saddled with insanely high-interest student loans as they earn a degree that leads to high-paying jobs in our state. To make student loans more affordable, I introduced legislation (House Bill 1736) establishing a public student loan fund that would provide loans with an interest rate of just 1% to Washington undergraduates and graduate students pursuing some of the most in-demand fields. This will be funded by a one-time injection of $300 million to create a revolving fund.
A related invoice (Internal Bill 2007) creates a student loan program for nurse educators. Our nurses are exhausted, exhausted and leaving for other professions. We need more nurse educators to train more people to enter the field, which will solve the shortage in our hospitals and health care facilities.
To address the issue of the financial aid form, we passed Bill 1835. This legislation creates a statewide push to educate students and parents about the form and help them complete it before the deadline, so that a piece of paper does not get in the way. academic and professional dreams. By partnering with high schools and public libraries and reaching out directly to people who receive other state benefits, the state can better ensure that those in need of financial assistance know about and complete applications. federal and state.
And we passed House Bill 1659 to solve the financial problems and emergencies that cause many hard-working students to drop out. Transitional grants of $1,000 will help low-income students avoid dropping out in the event of a financial emergency related, for example, to housing or child care.
These reforms are currently being considered by the State Senate, and if you support them, please speak up about them or tell your family’s story. Because students shouldn’t be burdened with crippling debt just to get to a degree or diploma leading to a well-paying job. As a state, we can provide our students with more affordable options.