Increased investment in higher education suddenly appears likely

In the last two days of session, there is renewed enthusiasm to try to significantly improve funding for higher education.  New B&O (Business and Occupation) taxes are the source of nearly $300 million annually funding increases for higher education if, as appears likely, HB 2158 passes.  The bill passed the House late last night on a partisan vote of 52-45.  It now heads to the Senate where it appears to have the democratic support necessary to pass it before tomorrow’s last day of the session.

Though a lion’s share of that funding is for student need grants, there are a variety of other spending plans.  Here’s how the taxes will be spent:

…$162.7 million to close the State Need Grant waitlist by one-third in the first year and then the remaining two thirds in the second year and expand eligibility under the Washington College Grant program;

…$60.8 million for increasing nurse educator salaries and high-demand program faculty salaries at the community and technical colleges;

…$32.1 million for implementing Guided Pathways at the community and technical colleges;

…$17.1 million for new degrees and expanded enrollments in high-demand programs;

…$62.3 million for foundational support in community and technical colleges and public baccalaureates;

…$14.4 million for WSU medical school completion and expansion;

…$11.5 million for career connected learning initiatives;

…$2.3 million for student support services; and

…$2.0 million for the student loan refinancing program.

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