College Becomes a Little More Affordable in Washington State

College has been called everything from a necessary component of the American dream to the great unleveler, but it almost doesn't matter to foreign students. No matter if they come from England or Eritrea, they're subject to sky-high tuition under the "international" label. Tennessee and Oregon wanted to change that, and now Washington is following suit.

Washington Becomes Number 5

On February 25, 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would give financial aid to students brought to the United States illegally by their parents, which makes it the fifth state to do so. Before, children who were brought here illegally didn't have access to state grants but now they will, provided they and their families qualify under certain income and residency requirements. They have had access to in-state tuition since 2003, but no extra boost from the government.

For American citizens, students who want state funding at a college they attend that wasn't in their high school state have to have lived in their college state for at least a year, and show proof via a solid paper trail.

Undocumented students, on the other hand, must prove that their family income is less than $57,500, which is the median family income for 70% of people in Washington. They also have to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent in the state, and done so by putting in at least three years of high school in the state.

Who This Helps

Washington is home to almost 7 million people, with approximately 11.2% of them Hispanics. The U.S. Census also shows that this is a huge spike from 20 years ago when there Hispanics made up only 4.4% of the population.

Governor Inslee's move is both a surprising one and not, with the former reflecting Washington's setting in the stereotypical Pacific Northwest. It's a state that tends to be liberal far more often than not, and this legislation almost seemed like a matter of when, not if.

But it is surpising that the bill was passed peacefully by Democrats and Republicans alike, as the latter is burdened by a reputation for not caring about foreign students. Fairly or unfairly, Republicans are painted with the same xenophobic brush, despite not every Republican politician feeling the same.

However, the blue state isn't entirely without Republicans at both the political and civilian levels, but not enough that each proposed bill turns into a tennis match. And in the case of this one, two Republicans, Rep. Bruce Chandler (Granger) and Sen. Barbara Bailey (Oak Harbor), let themselves be moved by the flight of the foreign students. When speaking to an assembly of students at a ceremony hosted by Latino/Educational Achievement Project, Chandler stressed the need for unity: "We all can't live in a cul-de-sac or in gated communities. We have to live as one community."

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