Washington state works to expand access to student aid 

By Caleb McGever | Staff Writer 

On March 2, 2023, the Washington State Senate passed bill SB 5711. If signed into law, this bill would extend the number of years a student can receive the Washington College Grant (WCG) from five to six years.   

SB 5711 is now sitting in the Washington State House. David Barnes, senior associate director of Whitworth student financial services, sent out an email on March 15 encouraging students to write to their state legislatives and share their stories of how the grant has assisted them and will assist them in the future. This will help to advocate for SB 5711 to be passed through the House.   

The stories are being collected by a non-profit group called the Independent Colleges of Washington. The organization plans to present the stories in bulk to the Washington House of Representatives in order to show them the impact the grant has for students. 

Barnes stated that the WCG is an important factor for many students attending Whitworth. The Grant has provided around $5,689,375 worth of grants to over 800 Whitworth Students. Washington state resident students can apply for this grant by filling out the WASFA.  

The Washington College Grant, originally called the State Need Grant, was modified in 2019 and is currently the state’s largest financial aid program. 

SB 5771 was requested by the Washington Student Achievement Counsel and was sponsored by a number of Washington state Senators. The bill requested that a student be eligible to receive the WCG for up to six years, or 150% of the length of the program they’re enrolled in.  

There are other changes to the Washington College Grant that are being considered as well. Barnes said that the WCG currently often offers more aid to students from larger state schools and less aid to students from smaller, private universities, like Whitworth. This is because the amount of aid a college gets to distribute to students is roughly based on the number of students a school has.  

Barnes said they’re trying to “open it up” so that students get similar amounts from the WCG, no matter what school they choose to attend. “Students at schools like Whitworth need that funding as well. We don’t want students to have their access or choice of school limited by funding.” 

More information about the grant as well as the opportunity to share your story with state legislatures can be found on the Independent Colleges of Washington’s website. 

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