ESHB 1131

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Passed Legislature

Title: An act relating to helping former foster care youth gain post-secondary education and providing scholarships to former foster care youth for this purpose.

Brief Description: Creating the passport to college promise program.

Sponsors: By House Committee on Appropriations (originally sponsored by Representatives Dunshee, Haler, Kenney, Fromhold, Priest, Roberts, Jarrett, Kagi, Hunt, McDermott, Haigh, Ormsby, Chase, Wallace, Hudgins, Schual-Berke, Simpson, Conway, Morrell, Moeller and Santos).

Brief History:

Higher Education: 1/22/07, 1/24/07 [DP];

Appropriations: 2/5/07, 2/27/07 [DPS].

Floor Activity:

Passed House: 3/6/07, 81-16.
Senate Amended.
Passed Senate: 4/11/07, 47-2.
House Concurred.
Passed House: 4/14/07, 78-16.
Passed Legislature.

Brief Summary of Engrossed Substitute Bill
  • Provides for outreach and information to youth foster care regarding opportunities for higher education, including financial aid that may be available.
  • Provides scholarships to assist eligible former foster youth with the costs of higher education for up to five consecutive years.
  • Requires the Department of Social and Health Services to contract with at least one non-governmental entity to develop and implement a plan to help foster youth with planning and transition into higher education.
  • Requires the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to evaluate the pilot program and report to the Legislature by December 2012.


Majority Report: Do pass. Signed by 9 members: Representatives Wallace, Chair; Sells, Vice Chair; Anderson, Ranking Minority Member; Buri, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Hasegawa, Jarrett, McIntire, Roberts and Sommers.

Staff: Andrew Colvin (786-7304).


Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefor and the substitute bill do pass. Signed by 28 members: Representatives Sommers, Chair; Dunshee, Vice Chair; Haler, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Buri, Cody, Conway, Darneille, Dunn, Ericks, Fromhold, Grant, Haigh, Hinkle, Hunter, Kagi, Kenney, Kessler, Linville, McDermott, McDonald, McIntire, Morrell, Pettigrew, Priest, Schual-Berke, Seaquist, P. Sullivan and Walsh.

Minority Report: Do not pass. Signed by 5 members: Representatives Alexander, Ranking Minority Member; Bailey, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Anderson, Chandler and Kretz.

Staff: Debbie Driver (786-7143).


The results of numerous studies indicate that former foster youth face greater hurdles in adulthood compared to those who were never in foster care. For example, former foster youth graduate from high school at a lower rate than their non-foster care peers. Former foster youth also attend post-secondary education at a lower rate and, if they do attend, have much lower graduation rates. Former foster youth are also more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration than youth who were never in foster care.

Washington has taken a number of steps to help former foster youth successfully make the transition from foster care to post-secondary education and adulthood. In 2005, the Legislature created an endowed scholarship program for financially needy foster youth and former foster youth ages 16 to 23 years who had been in the state's foster care system six months or longer since turning 14 years old. The Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) publicizes and promotes the program to eligible students with the assistance of an advisory board. The amount of an award may not exceed the student's financial need. The HECB anticipates making the first awards in the 2008-2009 academic year.

In 2005, the duties of the Children's Administration Oversight Committee on Education of Foster Youth were expanded to include promotion of opportunities for foster youth to participate in post-secondary education or training. The HECB, when making awards of State Need Grants, was directed to give consideration to former foster youth.

In 2006, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was authorized to allow up to 50 youth in foster care reaching 18 years of age to stay in foster or group care so they could participate in or complete a post-high school academic or vocational program. In 2007 and 2008, 50 additional youth per year may be permitted to continue to remain in foster or group care after reaching the age of 18 to complete post-high school academic or vocational programs.

In addition to Washington's efforts, private sector organizations also recognize the need to expand post-secondary opportunities for former foster youth. In 2001, former Governor Gary Locke established the Governor's Scholarship for Foster Youth. The scholarship is managed by the College Success Foundation (formerly called the Washington Education Foundation). Between 20 and 30 scholarships are awarded annually, with awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per year, depending on the recipient's needs. Scholarships can be renewed for up to four additional years.

Summary of Engrossed Substitute Bill:

The Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) is directed to implement a six-year pilot program to provide supplemental college scholarships to former foster care youth. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must have been emancipated from foster care after having spent at least one year in foster care since his or her sixteenth birthday. A student must also be a Washington resident enrolled at least half-time in a college in Washington, make satisfactory academic progress, not already have a bachelor's or professional degree, and not be pursuing a degree in theology. An eligible student may receive a scholarship for up to five years or until the student's twenty-sixth birthday, whichever occurs first.

The amount of the scholarships shall be the difference between a student's financial need and the amount the student receives through public and private grants, scholarships, and waiver assistance, including a self-help amount. Scholarships shall not exceed the amount of tuition and fees at the highest-priced public institution.

The HECB, with input from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), must develop a web site and outreach program to provide information to foster youth about higher education.

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) shall develop procedures to identify eligible students. The DSHS shall also contract with at least one non-governmental entity to develop and implement a plan to help foster youth plan for and transition into higher education.

The HECB must provide a status report to the Legislature by January 2008, and along with the SBCTC, must submit reports to the Legislature by December of 2009 and 2011. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy shall evaluate the pilot program and report to the Legislature by December 2012.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed. However, the bill is null and void unless funded in the budget.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony: (Higher Education)

(In support) The state has a moral and financial responsibility to help former foster youth attend higher education. Every state effort to help former foster youth attend higher education failed. This bill is a way for the state to make good on its commitment to foster youth.

The era of the passive approach to education is over. The higher education system must reach out to current and former foster youth. This bill provides for proactive educational planning for foster youth. Many foster youth are credit deficient in high school and need proactive planning to graduate and enroll in higher education.

It is hard to get former foster youth to stay in higher education once they enroll because they tend to be an economically vulnerable population with less maturity and more educational deficiencies compared to their peers. They also tend to have lower self-esteem and a harder time making long-term plans compared to youth not in foster care.

This bill creates a culture of thriving for youth in foster care and allows them to leave a positive footprint in society. College is a way up and a way out, and is a very powerful tool for a child. If just 18 to 20 percent of former foster youth who are incarcerated went to higher education instead of jail or prison, the Passport to College Promise Program would pay for itself.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying: (In support) Representative Dunshee, prime sponsor; Reuven Carlye, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges; Janis Avery, Treehouse; Daniel Stusser; Adam Cornell; Betty Gebhardt, Higher Education Coordinating Board; Terry Teale, Council of Presidents.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony:

(In support) This bill provides wrap-around services that address the vulnerability of the foster care population to reach post-secondary educational goals. Foster care youth are at risk of post-secondary program failure. With inconsistent school attendance, multiple school transfers have lack of basic skills and knowledge necessary for higher education. Early educational planning works, and wraparound services are critical to address the vulnerabilities these students possess and to ensure their success. Due to privacy concerns, there are many unknowns in serving the foster care youth population. This program gives us a better idea of the size, population, and needs of this population along with tools to meet those needs. The Passport to College Promise Program provides an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining foster care youth. Key to the bill is the partnership and outreach approach outlined in the bill.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying:

(Appropriations) Representative Dunshee, prime sponsor; Chris Reykdal, State Board of Community and Technical Colleges; Betty Gephardt, Higher Education Coordinating Board; Hollis Hill, Advocacy Committee for Treehouse; and Greg Scheiderer, Independent Colleges of Washington.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.