1/30/2019 12:18:00 PM Tackling our student debt crisis A View from the Statehouse: Capital Column
Rep. Dave Paul
On January 14, I had the honor of being sworn in as one of your representatives for the 10th district. I look forward to addressing tough issues like transportation infrastructure development, strengthening our public schools and developing effective and diverse college and professional-training pathways. The last topic is very important to me. I have taught in higher education for 20 years. The last 10 years, I have helped students at Skagit Valley College earn a degree or certificate that leads to a living-wage job or allows them to transfer to a university. College education transforms lives; I have seen it firsthand. Serving on the House College and Workforce Development Committee allows me to work with my colleagues to address college affordability and to strengthen pathways for career preparation. I am excited to work on this committee and to update you about our work to reduce student debt and help students pursue their career goals. According to the Institute for College and Success, 52 percent of graduates in Washington had debt in 2017. They averaged $23,936 per borrower. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard reports that 13.5 percent of graduates of two-year colleges had federal student loan debt in 2017, averaging $10,844. These staggering loans can have long-term effects on financial stability. Borrowers often delay buying a house or saving for retirement because they are paying off student loans. It’s simply unacceptable. At the same time, Washington businesses report there is a shortage of qualified workers for many jobs that pay a living wage. The Career Connect Washington Task Force projects that about 740,000 jobs will open in the next five years. Of those, 70 percent will need a credential beyond high school. This does not mean that every student should have to go to a four-year college, but it does mean we need work on aligning our learning systems to help prepare people for these jobs. HB 1336 will expand learning opportunities for students through a career-connected learning system to help them explore and prepare for family-wage jobs while fulfilling academic learning. Our committee has also heard bills aimed at helping students pay for college. HB 1340 and HB 1123 make adjustments to or replace the State Need Grant, creating the Washington College Promise. This will guarantee that students who meet the criteria will receive the financial aid for which they qualify. Currently, 25 percent of State Need Grant-eligible students do not receive their awarded aid because the state has not allocated enough money to help every qualifying student. Our post-secondary education system needs to prepare students for successful careers without burdening them with life-long student debt. These are just a few steps toward that goal. I care deeply about these issues and will be fighting tirelessly to ensure we support our students as they prepare for productive careers. As always, if you have any questions about these or any other issues, please contact my office at Dave.Paul@leg.wa.gov or (360) 786-7914. Dave Paul won election to his first term to the Washington House of Representatives District 10, Position 2 last November.