There were 1,175 press releases posted in the last 24 hours and 405,071 in the last 365 days.

Bergquist’s 13 Year Free Bill Passes In Committee

The aspiration for higher education is a dream for many, and for some, one that remains financially out of reach. Rep. Steve Bergquist (D-Renton) has introduced House Bill 2309 to make this dream a more accessible reality for graduating Washingtonians.

Bergquist is spearheading bipartisan efforts to equitably enhance accessibility in higher education for all Washington students. House Bill 2309, or the ’13 Year Free Guarantee’ bill, ensures a tuition-free year at a regional community or technical colleges for nearby graduates of a GED or high school diploma. Student recipients would have up to two academic years to take advantage to earn up to 45 credits.

House Bill 2309 would ensure this promise to every Washington student, regardless of income-level, and only requires high school graduates fill out the WASFA or FAFSA form.

Inspiration for House Bill 2309 drew its start from the success of the “Renton Promise” pilot program at Renton Technical College (RTC). Much like the 13 Free Guarantee seeks to do, the Renton Promise pilot assists students with tuition cost, and allows students to stay up to two years or until completion of a certificate or associate degree. The program was a huge success and significantly increased RTC’s enrollment. There is also a program within Seattle known as the Seattle Promise which also saw huge success.

Students from Bellevue College, Yakima College, the Seattle Colleges, and Tacoma Community College came to testify on HB 2309. The unified voice highlighted one thing – the barrier to higher education for many is the financial cost. One student mentioned that fellow students must choose between work or higher education. “I have heard many personal accounts; many people work two jobs and tell me about the dilemma they face: bettering my education or working.” This guarantee not only provides students an opportunity to continue their education cost free but also provides students with a stipend, bridge grant, and helps students that may have mental health needs.

The aim is to enhance accessibility to higher education for all: the 13 Year Free positively impacts individuals throughout Washington, especially benefiting communities of color, working parents, and those working to leverage their talents and break the cycle of generational poverty. The 13 Year Free is a first step within a large push for statewide free college. In the meantime, regional technical institutes or community colleges will potentially see major enrollment boosts, and potentially provide much needed prepared workers in a job hungry industry.

The bill was passed out of Executive session in the Postsecondary Education & Workforce committee on January 30th, 2024.