Monday, June 6, 2011

A smart move for Washington students

Landing the jobs of tomorrow won’t be an easy task, and the need for education and training beyond high school is increasingly critical.

How can we create and keep the high-tech, cutting-edge jobs of the future?

Let’s start by making sure our own kids get the education and skills needed to claim those jobs. Moving in that direction, Governor Gregoire signed a package of higher education bills into law today, paving the way for comprehensive and creative change for higher education in Washington state.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1795, which was signed today and will allow public four-year institutions to set tuition rates to meet local demand, while also increasing financial aid for low and middle-income students.

“Our challenge as a state is to find a thoughtful balance between ongoing state budget deficits and a significant need for access, affordability and quality in our state colleges and universities,” Carlyle said. “This legislation embraces the differences within our public college system and boosts financial aid that will bring relief for real students needing real relief.”

Gregoire also signed Rep. Tim Probst’s House Bill 2088 to help students earn degrees in high-employer demand fields. With the creation of the Opportunity Expansion Program, the state will increase the number of students obtaining high-demand, high-wage jobs at state four-year colleges and the Opportunity Scholarship Program will provide scholarships to low and middle-income students who earn degrees in high-demand careers and other educational programs. At today’s bill signing ceremony, the Boeing and Microsoft companies announced they will each be putting $25 million into the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“Washington is the first state in the nation to create a scholarship program like this,” Probst said. “We hope that other companies will follow Microsoft and Boeing’s incredible example, so we can offer 10,000 scholarships or more before Christmas of this year.”

Also signed today, held at Seattle’s Cleveland High School, were Senate Bill 5749, making minor changes to the actuarially-sound Guaranteed Education Tuition program, and Senate Bill 5182, eliminating the Higher Education Coordinating Board and transferring their functions.

“In order to compete in tomorrow’s economy, Washington simply must become better educated and better skilled,” said Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Education Committee. “With the bipartisan leadership and significant community involvement in this great set of higher education legislation, we’ve set the foundation for success in our colleges and universities.”

To read the full press release, please click here. Here’s a link to the Governor’s release from today as well.