OLYMPIA – Sens. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, introduced the Washington Promise program Tuesday, which would provide two years of guaranteed tuition at community and technical colleges for all eligible Washington residents.

“This is a bold proposal to ensure universal access to higher education for all Washingtonians,” said Jayapal, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate. “The community college system in this state is one of the best in the country, and really prepares students for careers or for transfer to four-year institutions. But the cost of tuition is still a barrier for too many people. If we remove that barrier, our state will be on the fast-track to a stronger economy. Businesses in Washington have reported 50,000 open skilled positions annually. That is about $2-2.5 billion in annual middle class wages currently lost to families in our communities. We can’t afford not to pass this.”

The Washington Promise will be made available to all Washington residents who have completed a state or federal application for financial aid. Students pursuing an associate’s degree or technical certificate are eligible for four years after they first begin receiving the grant or upon completion of 120 credit hours.

“Opening the door to our state’s community colleges with free tuition for every resident puts the dream of higher education in reach regardless of income or where you live,” said Pollet, the bill’s prime sponsor in the House. “Free access to community college is a proven way to increase high school graduation rates and to enable people to move up in their careers to support their families. Community college students in our state have suffered dramatic increases in their student loan debts. They deserve relief.”

“This legislation is not only about making promises to our students, but about giving Washingtonians access to the tools they need to fulfill their own promise,” said Frockt, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Higher Education Committee and co-sponsor of the bill. “The Washington promise will bridge the gap between need and skill, building a middle class compact for Washington families to grow and thrive.”

The Jayapal/Frockt bill will be introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.