One year of free education may be possible for rural counties

A bill that could give free tuition to residents in rural counties with high unemployment returns to the House floor.

House Bill 2177, sponsored by 24th District Representative Mike Chapman, would allow assistance for certain students that qualify to receive one year of schooling in jobs where the number students prepared for employment from local programs is inadequate to meet the local demand.

“One year beyond high school is the tipping point for family wage jobs,” Chapman said. “This is about giving every family in rural Washington a chance to join the middle class–while providing local businesses with the skilled workforce they need to compete and thrive.”

This could include early childhood education, computer science, law enforcement, and other careers.

Chapman said. “If you look at any community—a city of one million or a small town with 400 people—you can predict a family’s average income by looking at one number: the percentage of workers with any education beyond high school. This legislation lifts up families in timber and farm country with high-demand skills for high-wage jobs. And it goes further by targeting the specific programs and certificates that industries and businesses need in each part of the state.”

According to the original bill; to be eligible, a student must be from a county with a population fewer than eighty thousand persons that recorded high unemployment and a median wage less than $18.00 an hour, and have either been a recent High School graduate or been on unemployment in the past 6 months.

Originally introduced in the 2017 session, the bill recently got a hearing in the Higher Education Committee.

According to a release, Sierra Pacific Industries, the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Forest Protection Association, sustainable timber firm Green Crow and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges have all spoke out in support of the passage.

They say that “No one testified against the legislation”.

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