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Washington State Provides In-State Financial Aid For DREAMers

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, poses for a photo with a group of students, after he signed into law a measure that expands state financial aid to students living illegally in the country, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

CREDIT: AP/Ted S. Warren.

Governor Jay Inslee (D) capped off efforts by the state legislature and signed the Real HOPE Actinformally known as the Washington DREAM Actinto law, making Washington the fifth state in the nation to offer college financial aid to undocumented students. 

The Washington House of Representatives passed a version of the DREAM Act on the very first day of the 2014 legislative session.

The state Senate followed up with the Real HOPE Act.

“It invests more money into the Washington State Need Grant program, which is currently unable to fund 32,000 out of the 105,000 students who qualify for the program. The $5 million that was attached to the new bill should be enough to fund an additional 2,000-2,500 students, which is a small but important step to closing the gap of students who are not being served,” Executive Director of the Washington Student Association (WSA) Garrett Havens said.

Last Tuesday, February 18, 2014, the House approved the Senate’s Real HOPE Act. With the governor’s signing of the bill, the efforts of many student organizers came to fruition.

The WSA made state-based financial aid for undocumented students a priority this past year.

“The WSA has put in a lot of time, energy, and effort into this issue and I have become personally invested throughout the process. Many of them had shared their stories with me at one point or another, whether it was in one on one conversations, or part of rallies or press conferences,” Havens said.

While the Real HOPE Act institutionalizes greater access to higher education, “there is a lot of work left to do,” said Havens.

“At this point I would say that the next best thing we can do to support DREAMers in their pursuit of higher education at the state level is to push for full funding of the Washington State Need Grant,” Havens said. “As it stands right now, over 30,000 eligible students aren’t receiving the grant.”

Jude Paul Dizon is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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