Olympia, Wash. — Central Washington University President James L. Gaudino joined two other college presidents and key legislative leaders to support House Bill 2955, which creates the “Free to Finish” College Plan to help those who interrupted their education just short of earning a degree to complete their studies.
“Our own research discovered that one of the points when students are most likely to drop out is when they’re just about finished with a degree,” said Gaudino, adding that often the cause is that students have run out of money. “With just a little state support, we can change the lives of thousands of students and help them finish a college degree.”
Gaudino, whom bill sponsor Rep. Drew Hansen consulted on the composition of the bill, said students often leave school because they’ve changed majors or taken too few units. Then they find themselves unable to complete their degrees because they’ve run out of money and are unable to qualify for student loans or other financial aid.
“They want to finish, but they give up,” he said. “A bill like this that will pick up the costs for those students—it’s just a win-win program.”
The proposal would cover students not currently enrolled in college and who haven’t been enrolled for the last three years. Additionally, eligible students would not already have a college degree or certificate and would be 15 or fewer credits or away from a degree or certificate.
Rep. Drew Hansen, chair of the House Higher Education Committee and primary sponsor of the legislation, said the program could cost as much as $10 million and accommodate an estimated 5,000 students.
“We want to send a very clear message to these students that we want them to come back and finish that degree so they can get better jobs and have better chances to support their families,” Hansen said.
Gaudino was joined at the news conference by George Bridges, president of Evergreen State University, and Lonnie L. Howard, president of Clover Park Technical College, who also urged lawmakers to approve the legislation.
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