Legislation is being proposed that would encourage college students to not only pursue degrees for high-demand jobs, but to stay and work in Washington state after graduation. John Sattgast reports from Olympia.
SATTGAST: The Workforce Education Investment Act, adopted during the 2019 session, was funded by a tax increase on many Washington businesses. It guarantees free or reduced tuition for more than 110 thousand college students. However. . .
GILDON: “It didn’t really have any sideboards on it. It didn’t really have any intentionality as far as which degrees are prioritized.”
SATTGAST: Puyallup Representative Chris Gildon says the program doesn’t get at the heart of the problem – developing a workforce of graduating college students to fill vacant high-demand jobs in Washington state. The 25th District lawmaker has proposed legislation that would narrow the free and reduced tuition workforce grants to students who pursue high-demand degrees.
GILDON: “We want to develop and name those specific priority career fields. Where do we need additional workforce in the future?”
SATTGAST: Gildon’s bill would still allow students in non-priority fields to receive the grants, later converted to zero-percent interest loans. A second bill would require grant recipients to work in Washington state up to two years if they received aid in their junior and senior years.
GILDON: “If our job as the Washington State Legislature is to develop the workforce for Washington state, if we have a lot of students that we are educating and then they’re migrating out to Oregon or California or New York, that kind of defeats the purpose, right?”
SATTGAST: Gildon is also proposing businesses receive a tax credit equal to grants, scholarships or other financial assistance they’ve given college students. All three bills have been pre-filed for introduction in the 60-day legislative session, which begins January 13th.
John Sattgast, Olympia.