Opportunity scholarships expanded to include technical and community colleges

By Katherine Long

A generous state scholarship program that helps pay college tuition at four-year schools will soon expand to help students earn professional technical degrees at community and technical colleges.

A seven-year-old state scholarship program that has helped more than 2,000 students earn a bachelor’s degree will soon offer the same type of generous aid to students who want to gain technical skills at community and technical colleges.

It’s part of a growing emphasis on encouraging more students to earn technical degrees and credentials after they graduate from high school — and a recognition that a four-year college degree doesn’t work for everyone.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that makes a major change to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), a $200 million public-private scholarship fund that began in 2011 as a way to help low- and middle-income students earning bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and health care.