WA lawmakers want to increase financial aid for college students – The Watchdog

College scholarships are an essential part of the financial aid that funds college students with financial difficulties. These scholarships have become increasingly important in recent years as the cost of higher education continues to rise and college education becomes difficult for students from low-income families to afford. Increasing the availability of college scholarships is vital to ensure students have the financial support they need to pursue their academic dreams.

Unfortunately, many students may not even know college scholarships exist or qualify for them. This lack of awareness can be particularly pronounced among students from low-income backgrounds or first-generation college students, who may not have the same level of guidance and support as other students. Although an estimated 110,000 people receive Washington College Grants each year, it is worrying to note that many families who could benefit from this financial assistance program are still not receiving support. As reported by the Seattle Times, more than a quarter (26 percent) of Seattle families make less than $50,000 a year, indicating a significant need for more financial support for higher education.

State aid for college students is currently underutilized as college enrollment numbers in both the state and Washington are declining. The available scholarship programs are adjusted to the number of eligible students, ie less funding is available when fewer students enroll.

University enrollment in Washington state has remained below pre-pandemic levels, with community colleges being hardest hit by the decline, according to a report by the Washington Student Achievement Council. This trend is worrying as it suggests that many students who could benefit from financial assistance programs such as scholarships and grants may not have access to these resources.

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Recognizing the importance of the relatively new Washington College Grant, Local Today reports that several bills have been proposed to improve and expand the program. These bills aim to either extend the duration of the scholarship or increase the funds available to provide further support to college students who may have difficulty affording the high costs of higher education.

Washington State is the nation’s leader in financial support for higher education. Its scholarship program awarded a total of $400 million to more than 94,000 students in the 2021-2022 academic year. This impressive investment in higher education makes Washington’s scholarship program one of the most generous state scholarship programs in the country. Unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid.

Adán Mendosa, a fifth-year graduate student in economics and politics at Central Washington University, says: “There’s also this huge personal aspect of putting off going back to school immediately to make money so you can have a roof over your head and having food on your stomach and supporting the family is not an option,” noting that extending college scholarships could make it less stressful for low-income students to complete their college education.

Before the pandemic, he attended Columbia Basin College with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution. However, due to financial pressures and the need to support his single mother raising four children, he had to postpone his transfer plans. As a result, he was forced to transition from full-time to part-time student status, requiring him to take additional courses and lodgings to meet his academic needs.

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“Without the Washington College Grant, I wouldn’t be here at college, to put it simply,” Mendosa said. “It gave me the opportunity to even go to college.”

“Winning a college scholarship was a turning point for me,” said Katie Chandler, a freshman at Bellevue College. “It’s sad that more people aren’t talking about it. It allowed me to pursue my academic dreams without worrying about taking out student loans. The scholarship covered my entire education, allowing me to focus on my studies and earn a degree without worrying about financial stability. I wouldn’t even be here at Bellevue College without the scholarship, and I hope more students can benefit from financial assistance programs like this in the future.”

To apply or for more information about the scholarship, visit the Washington Student Achievement Council website.