OLYMPIA - Sen. Brad Hawkins’ bill to expand Running Start opportunities for high school students took a major step forward Friday. As amended, the Senate approved the bill by a unanimous vote.
Hawkins is a member of the Senate’s Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee and developed the amendment proposal with Committee Chair T’wina Nobles of the 28th District.
Running Start is a free tuition “dual credit” opportunity for 11th and 12th graders, allowing students to earn college credit while in high school. Students can get a head start or “running start” to college, accumulating credits during their high school years.
Some students can even complete their AA degrees while earning high school diplomas. This opportunity saves the students money, reduces their likelihood of debt, and advances them closer to earning a four-year degree.
Hawkins introduced Senate Bill 5670 during the last session to allow 10th graders to earn limited credits online as an introduction to the Running Start program. This form of the bill was approved last session by the Senate’s Early Learning & K-12 Committee and the Ways & Means Committee.
On Friday's Senate floor, senators accepted a Hawkins’ amendment that changed the bill to allow students between 10th and 11th grades to earn up to 10 college credits during their summer term.
I’m a big believer in the state’s Running Start program as a tuition-free option for students and families. It is a great option for all, especially for students from middle-class families who sadly may not otherwise qualify for any student aid. The program provides a proven way to build credits and get students on a degree path.
Unfortunately, a full load of Running Start college coursework for high school juniors can shock the system. Allowing students to gradually begin the program during the summer months – either online or in person – could help ease them into college and help them experience success. It’s an added option.
I’m calling it a “Walking Start to Running Start,” and I’m thankful the Senate approved it.
In its Senate-approved form, the bill seeks to make permanent a summer term funded temporarily in the 2023-2025 budget. With this potential expansion of Running Start, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has classified students who have completed 10th grade but have not yet started 1 th grade as “Rising Juniors.”
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration, with its first stop likely in the House Education Committee. If the House approves the bill before the session ends on March 7, it will advance to the Governor for consideration.
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