WA Senate approves guarantee, new name for college aid grant

Washington would give one of its main college aid programs more money and a new name under a bill that passed the Senate over the weekend.

Saturday’s 27-18 vote sent to the House major changes to the state Need Grant, which currently is available to students whose families are at or below 70 percent of the state median income level. However, it is contingent on money approved by the Legislature, and more than 19,000 students who qualify don’t get grants because the money runs out.

The new system, to be renamed the College Promise Scholarship, would be guaranteed for students from families who are at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level, which is 26,000 a year for a family of four.  If there is money left in the program after those students receive scholarships, it would be distributed to other low-income students above that level on a sliding scale.

Some Republicans argued the change was creating a new entitlement program, over which the Legislature will have less control, while others argued the grade requirement for remaining in the scholarship program was too low – a GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. But Democrats argued that 2.0 is a reasonable GPA, particularly for students in new situations and those who are working while going to school or have families.

Similar legislation is already pending in the House Appropriations Committee.  (Spokesman-Review)