Incoming Juniors in WA to Have Opportunity to Take College Courses This Summer

This upcoming summer presents an opportunity for Washington’s high school students to kickstart their college journey even earlier.

A new initiative led by Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-Wenatchee, is set to enhance the state’s popular Running Start program, which has been providing tuition-free college credit opportunities to high school juniors and seniors since the early 1990s.

With Hawkins’ proposal, incoming 11th graders can register for college courses over the summer and earn up to 10 credits. The legislation swiftly passed through the state’s legislative bodies, and Gov. Jay Inslee approved it into law in late March.

Describing his bill as a ‘Walking Start to Running Start,’ Hawkins expressed his belief that it will assist students in transitioning to college smoothly, reducing their financial burden, and advancing their progress towards obtaining degrees.

The bill is set to come into effect this June, enabling the graduating 10th graders to enroll for the program. Wenatchee Valley College, the local community college where Hawkins serves, is in the process of preparing enrollment procedures and other essential information for implementing the revised law.

Faimous Harrison, the President of Wenatchee Valley College, emphasized that the program offers students a less overwhelming introduction to college life while helping them chart their career paths early on.

“Highlighting the importance of a degree, there are concerns about students accumulating substantial financial debt from their education yet struggling to secure jobs or pursue fields of interest,” remarked Harrison.

“Running Start not only facilitates early career exploration but also fosters networking opportunities, enabling students to explore diverse fields,” he added.

Under the new legislation, school districts are mandated to inform students and their families about the possibility of joining Running Start summer programs. Participants can opt for part-time or full-time classes, with some even completing associate’s degrees before high school graduation.

While tuition is covered by the student’s school district and largely backed by state funding, Running Start enrollees may have to bear expenses related to textbooks, transportation, and other college fees.

This law marks an extension of the summer Running Start courses that were open to 11th and 12th graders in 2021 through a state-led pilot initiative. The pilot demonstrated promising outcomes with colleges reporting an impressive average completion rate of 90% and an 87% retention from summer to fall for Running Start participants.

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