Washington state may soon become the fourth state to allow some of its young undocumented residents to be eligible for state financial aid when they apply for college. On a bipartisan 75–22 vote Tuesday evening, the Washington state Legislature passed the Senate’s version of the Real HOPE Act — colloquially known as the Washington DREAM Act — which Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is expected to sign.
Undocumented students are eligible for the State Need Grant (state financial aid) if they were granted temporary legal presence under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or if they provide an “affidavit indicating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident at the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so and a willingness to engage in other activities necessary to acquire citizenship.” Eligibility requirements also require that immigrants must have lived in the state for at least three years, completed the full senior year of high school, and graduated with a diploma or a GED equivalent at a Washington high school. About $5 million will be appropriated for the 2015 fiscal year once the bill becomes law 90 days after the governor signs.
The Washington state house passed its own version of the bill on the first day of the 2014 session last month, but the Senate version added $5 million in appropriations in order to implement the bill. The bill that passed Tuesday night is the first to pass both chambers of the Legislature in the 2014 session.
Gov. Inslee said in a press statement on Tuesday, “The DREAM Act represents a new future for many aspiring Washington students. While we’ve opened the doors of our colleges and universities to students from all walks of life, too many still face an insurmountable financial barrier.”
Undocumented students in Washington state have been allowed to pay at the in-state tuition rate since 2003, but this measure would put them one step closer to having affordable college education. The average cost of tuition, room, board, and other expenses at the University of Washington-Seattle campus is about $27,034 for in-state residents, a huge expenditure for undocumented immigrants whose average household income hovers around $36,000.
Traditionally, the state “DREAM Acts” have provided in-state tuition to undocumented college students, and 16 states have now enacted such provisions. California, Texas, New Mexico are currently the only states that have extended access to higher education to include financial aid eligibility.