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Originally published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:17 PM

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Editorial: Legislature OKs financial aid for students with illegal status

The Washington State Legislature should pass landmark legislation this session that allows all college students to apply for financial aid, regardless of their citizenship status.

Seattle Times Editorial

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FINALLY, Washington state college students who do not have legal immigration status appear close to being allowed to apply for financial help to pay for school.

The state Senate and House will be wrangling over the details in their respective bills — petty differences over the bill’s title must not derail this worthy measure. Gov. Jay Inslee supports the policy change.

This bipartisan effort comes 11 years after the Legislature decided these students — many brought to the U.S. as children by their parents and educated in Washington schools — qualified for lower-cost in-state tuition, a major help. Still the lack of access to state financial aid was another obstacle for low-income students.

By affirming these young people are worthy of public investment, lawmakers also are sending another strong message to Congress that they should have legal status under federal immigration law.

While the House’s “Dream Act,” passed on the session’s first day, represents a policy change, the Senate’s “Real Hope Act” goes further, committing to spend $5 million. The Washington Student Achievement Council estimates that investment would cover about 1,100 additional students with an average grant of $4,500 per year.

But a shortage still exists. Though about 74,000 students receive State Need Grant assistance every year, 32,000 students are turned away because of limited resources.

Lawmakers have agreed on the policy of opening state financial aid to students without legal status. This would help more bright, promising high school graduates get out of the shadows and into college classrooms.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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