The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) program was established in 2011 to provide scholarships to low- and middle-income resident students pursuing eligible high demand baccalaureate degrees in: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health care; and to encourage scholarship recipients to work in the state upon completion of their degrees.
The WSOS Board is staffed by a program administrator under contract with the board and the Washington Student Achievement Council. The program administrator is a private nonprofit. The WSOS is a private-public match program in which the state matches any private donations in order to fund the scholarships. The state match is capped at $50 million annually.
A program administrator is one or more private nonprofit corporations. Effective immediately, the WSOS Board may establish and/or contract with one or more private nonprofit corporations to operate as the program administrator to fulfill the duties required by the WSOS program.
The state match, up to a maximum of $50 million, must be provided annually and is no longer contingent on state tax collections exceeding fiscal year 2008 levels.
The Senate amendment modifies the state match requirements for both the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) and the Rural County High Employer Demand Jobs Program (Rural Jobs Program), which sits under the WSOS, as follows:
(In support) Washington's investment in the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) has allowed thousands of students to achieve their dream education by studying over 123 majors. The WSOS provides critical career pipeline services to the state's most productive industries and helps fill workforce shortages. The WSOS is unique because it provides wraparound services that get students to graduation. Business and philanthropic partners match the scholarship dollar for dollar.
As the program has grown, it has become more difficult to administer. If the current program administrator does not renew its contract, the program might not continue. This bill would allow the WSOS Board to form a nonprofit to administer the WSOS. This flexibility is needed in case a program administrator is not found in time. It is important for legislators to not only begin these critical programs but also see that they're properly continued and implemented.
The WSOS has supported thousands of students, the majority of which are of color, women, or first-generation college students. The state match language in current statute is confusing and this bill would provide clarity by removing that language and provide security by guaranteeing funds.