Washington State
House of Representatives
Office of Program Research

Higher Education Committee

HB 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.

Brief Description: Creating the passport to college promise program.

Sponsors: 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 Summary of Bill
  • Provides for outreach and information to youth age 15 years and over in foster care regarding opportunities for higher education, including financial aid that may be available.
  • Provides scholarships covering tuition and living expenses to eligible former foster youth between ages 16 and 26 years to attend higher education for up to five consecutive years.
  • Gives monetary incentives to higher education institutions that enroll and retain eligible former foster youth.

Hearing Date: 1/22/07

Staff: Sarah Ream (786-7303).


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 postsecondary 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 state'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 twenty and thirty scholarship are awarded annually, with awards ranging from $1000 to $5000 per year, depending on the recipient's needs. Scholarships can be renewed for up to four additional years.

Summary of Bill:

This bill creates the Passport to College Promise Program. The program is designed to provide (1) outreach and information to current foster youth regarding the opportunities available to them for post-secondary education, and (2) scholarships to eligible former foster youth to cover their full costs of resident undergraduate tuition, fees and living expenses.

Outreach and Retention

The bill provides two- and four-year colleges and universities in Washington with $3,500 annually for each former foster youth who earns 45 quarter or 30 semester credits from the school. Another $2,500 is provided for every additional 45 quarter/30 semester credits earned by the former foster youth (up to 90 quarter/60 semester units at a two-year school and 180 quarter/120 semester units at a four-year school).

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) will create and maintain a website to provide comprehensive information to foster youth regarding opportunities for higher education. The SBCTC will annually award at least one $25,000 award to the institution(s) of higher education that have been most successful in recruiting, retraining, and graduating former foster youth.

The Department of Social and Health Services will contract with at least one non-governmental entity to provide supplemental educational transition planning to foster care youth beginning at age fifteen.


All eligible former foster youth between ages 16 and 26 will receive financial aid to cover their costs of attending higher education. To be eligible, a student must:

   o   Have been in foster care for at least 6 months since his/her 15th birthday;

   o   Maintain a 2.0 grade point average;
   o   Be between age 16 and 26;
   o   Be a resident of Washington;
   o   Not have earned a bachelor's or professional degree; and,
   o   Not be pursuing a degree in theology.

The institution of higher education attended by the student must first provide the student with all aid the student qualifies for (the aid cannot include work-study in an amount greater than 20% of the cost of attendance or student loans). The school must then provide a supplemental scholarship to the student so the entire amount of the student's cost of attendance is covered. The cost of attendance for a former foster youth will include a cost of living component equal to 150% of non-foster youths' cost of living. The school will apply to the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) for reimbursement of the amount of the supplemental scholarship provided to foster youth.

The scholarships to eligible foster youth will cover the first five consecutive years of an eligible student's undergraduate education. The scholarships can be used at any Washington institution of higher education (including accredited private schools). However, the maximum award will not be greater than the annual cost for a resident student to attend the University of Washington, plus 50% of what the HECB estimates to be the cost of room and board for an undergraduate student living on campus.


The SBCTC and the HECB will each report to the Legislature by January 15, 2010 regarding the number of students who have received scholarships under this program and those students' academic progress.

Appropriation: The sum of $3 million per year.

Fiscal Note: Requested.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.