Sunday, July 21, 2024

My “Walking Start to Running Start” bill will provide more options for students and families


The Washington State Legislature is quickly approaching its adjournment date of March 7. I’m pleased to share that my Senate Bill 5670, expanding the state’s Running Start program, is successfully moving through the process. It was unanimously approved by the Senate on Feb. 2 and received a public hearing on Feb. 15 in the House Education Committee.

Running Start is a “dual credit” program

Running Start is a free tuition “dual credit” opportunity for 11th and 12th graders, which was first implemented in Washington in the 1990s. The program allows students to earn tuition-free college credits while in high school. The credits earned count towards a student’s high school and college degree requirements. 

Students can participate in Running Start as part-time or full-time students, dedicating some or all of their school days to their college courses. This program provides students a “running start” to college by allowing them to accumulate credits during their high school years. State funding mostly follows students to their Running Start college, but some funding is retained by their high schools.

Senate Bill 5670 approved by Senate

My Senate Bill 5670, first introduced during the 2023 session, would expand Running Start opportunities for high schoolers by allowing students who have completed 10th grade but haven’t yet begun their fall term in 11th grade to earn up to 10 credits during their summer term. The bill took a major step forward on Feb. 2. As amended, the Senate approved the bill unanimously. 

I’m a member of the Senate’s Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee and support the Running Start program because students can complete their two-year degrees while also 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.

Bill advancing in House of Representatives

My bill received House Education Committee hearing on Feb. 15. It was great to return to the committee room, as a former committee member, to advocate for my Senate bill. Wenatchee Valley College President Faimous Harrison testified in support of the bill along with Running Start seniors Ella Crawford from Eastmont and Anthony Zavala from Cashmere.

The bill would make permanent a summer term funded temporarily in the 2023-2025 budget. I strongly support the Running Start program as an option for students and families, especially for students of middle-class families who may not otherwise qualify for financial aid. The program provides a proven way to build credits and put students on a degree path. 

For new Running Start students starting the program as juniors, a full load of college classes can shock the system and be very stressful. Allowing students to gradually begin the program during the summer months would help ease them into college and help them experience success. You have to walk before you run, so I’m calling my bill a “Walking Start to Running Start.”

Brad Hawkins is State Senator for the 12th District. He serves on both the Senate’s Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and the Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee.


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