Washington State Gets it Right for the Next Generation

May 9, 2008 | Blog

Washington State joined the ranks of states on the leading edge of promoting college-going among poor kids today when it announced the creation of the College Bound Scholarship, which is targeted at low-income 7th and 8th graders, guaranteeing to make sure that 100% of the gap in their demonstrated financial need (for tuition & fees) is covered and that they receive $500 for books.

Unlike some other states which shall remain nameless, which have created promise-type programs but guaranteed nothing of real value to the kids, this program has some serious chops. Here’s why:

1. It is a GUARANTEE. The kid who fulfills the terms of the scholarship gets the money, for sure.
2. It is a TARGETED program. It is advertised with a very clear income eligibility chart.
3. The scholarship is MEANINGFUL. It can be used at a private or public in-state school, fills in all tuition and fees not covered by state grants, and goes beyond to provide money for books, and the money is good for up to 4 years so long as it’s used within 5 years of high school graduation.
4. It is PUBLICLY funded. The WA Legislature actually ponied up.

These are all important elements of a good early-commitment financial aid program that are all too often neglected. Serious props to Washington for putting together a program based on research, and packaging it in a way that is simple and accessible. Now, if other states could only follow WA’s lead!

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Nick

    May 9, 2008

    That's great! Now, if only more states would follow suit.

    It's discouraging to see states jump on the "merit aid" bandwagon quicker than the "early commitment" bandwagon. Since Georgia started HOPE in the 1990's, some 16 states have designed similar programs. By the looks of the Pathways to College link, it looks like only 3 or 4 (now 5 with WA?) have early commitment programs.

    I suppose the reason for the spread of merit programs is that state legislators find it easier to "sell" this policy option to the median...white, middle class...voters who stand to benefit from the program. Early commitment programs are probably a lot tougher sell in statehouses across the US, so kudos to WA and the few other states that have stepped up to make forward-thinking public policy.

    PS - this blog is great, smart commentary and fun to read, keep it up!


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