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13th Year Scholars Advocate for Tuition-free Community and Technical Colleges

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February 16, 2017

Washington’s House Higher Education Committee heard testimonies Wednesday, Feb. 8, from two South Seattle College students and one alumnus, making their case for tuition-free community and technical college for the state’s middle and low-income students.

House Bill 1840, establishing the Washington Promise program, was introduced by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, and is designed to bolster high school graduation rates and fill a growing number of post-secondary positions across the state. The bill, if passed, would eventually assure that all students, no matter their financial standing, have the chance to attend one of the state’s 34 community and tech colleges through a state-funded stipend.

The bill is partially inspired by South Seattle College’s successful 13th Year Promise Scholarship program, which funds in-state tuition for one year at South through a combination of scholarships and financial aid. South Seattle President Gary Oertli also spoke to the Higher Education Committee, explaining how the program, currently offered to graduating seniors from Cleveland, Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach high schools, also offers a number of college-readiness and student support services at no cost.

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Monica Elenes, 13th Year Scholarship recipient, speaks before the Washington state House Higher Education Committee.

“Applying for the 13th Year Scholarship is one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Monica Elenes, a second year, A.A. Transfer student at South. “Now I can proudly say that I am a first generation Latina student, who is proof that this type of scholarship works. 13th Year has opened the door for me to be active on my campus, it helped me find an amazing work-study job and has given me a great support system.”

Monica will graduate in summer 2017, and hopes to transfer to Gonzaga University where she plans to study political science and pre-law.

Washington Promises’ four-step implementation process would first extend a stipend for one year of tuition-free community or technical college to recent low-income high school graduates. Eventually the program will offer a free community or technical college education to both middle and low income students, regardless of their graduation date. South’s own 13th Year Scholarship has found that 50 percent of students said they would not have attended college if not for the scholarship program.

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Krisna Mandujano, 13th Year Scholarship recipient, speaks before the Washington state House Higher Education Committee.

“Before 13th Year I was headed down the wrong path, but I wanted to make my mom proud and set a good example for my younger sister,” said Krisna Mandujano, a first year South Seattle student. “Since enrolling at South, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in every way possible. I am looking to go on to a four year university, and start working to end domestic violence and help undocumented students. I discovered I had a passion for these through my community service at South. Please consider making college a reality for students like me.”