This year’s pandemic-fueled economic downturn has not been felt equally throughout the working population.
Rather, it has painfully illustrated that jobs requiring a postsecondary credential tend not only to pay better but to also be more resilient. Increasing access to higher education is particularly important in Washington, which has struggled to close the gap between young people’s educational achievement and state workforce needs.
But enrollment at most state colleges has slumped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for financial assistance have slowed. That’s why congressional action expanding access to federal need-based aid for higher education was a welcome inclusion in the year-end omnibus spending bill that landed on President Donald Trump’s desk this week.
Once approved, the legislation will render an estimated 1.7 million new students eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award and qualify an additional 555,000 students for some federal assistance, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.