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New bill seeks to extend College Bound Scholarship to early high schoolers

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A bill that will open up a state scholarship to high school freshmen and sophomores for a college education is making its way to the state House.

On Feb. 22, the Senate Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development passed Senate Bill (SB) 1512 onto the House. The bill seeks to expand “a student’s initial eligibility for the College Bound Scholarship (CBS) to the seventh and eighth grade, rather than just the seventh grade.”

In addition, it allows “eligible students to sign a CBS pledge in the ninth or tenth grade, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, if they were previously ineligible in the seventh or eighth grade as a Washington student,” and prioritizes “eligible CBS students for the State Need Grant who have family incomes between 0 and 70 percent of medium family income.”

The College Bound Scholarship was established in 2007 by the state Legislature. According to the Washington State Achievement Council’s website, the program was created to “provide state financial aid to low-income students who may not consider college a possibility due to the cost. The scholarship covers tuition (at comparable public college rates), some fees, and a small book allowance.”

Prior to SB 1512’s introduction, only students in the seventh or eighth grade whose families met the income requirements could submit an application for CBS eligibility. Then, in their senior year of high school, those students had to meet the requirements in the College Bound Pledge (which included passing high school with at least a C average grade and no felony convictions) and income eligibility as determined by their financial aid applications.

Washington State Legislative Sup
Rep. Steve Bergquist, D-11

In a public testimony to the committee, House Democrat Steve Bergquist said: “As a high school social studies teacher, I was in the classroom full time when the first class of college bound entered.  The success has been evident. This bill provides a small fix to a larger problem; one in six students enroll in college bound and get to high school graduation and no longer qualify. The bill also expands the opportunity for students who are qualifying for the first time in ninth or tenth grade under circumstances such as their parents losing their job. The college bound scholarship is designed to encourage students to aspire to and enroll in college.”

Bergquist added: “Over 280,000 students have signed up. Students who were low-income in middle school and did not sign up for college bound graduated at a lower rate than college bound enrollees. Independent Colleges believe this bill is a needed extension of college bound eligibility. This bill gives students who missed the opportunity in middle school and additional chance.”

The bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee, the primary fiscal committee for the Washington State Senate that has the responsibility of overseeing all capital budget proposals, tax and pension policy, and other matters having a fiscal impact on the state.

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