Individuals feel brunt of state's promises not met

As the state shuts down scholarship programs, dreams of higher education evaporate.

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The Great Recession that's hanging around like a annoying house guest is, to some degree, taking a toll on all of us.

But college students (and their families) are really taking hits. Tuition is on the rise as state-run colleges and universities are trying to raise enough cash to make up for the cuts in state funding.

And those same state budget cuts have eliminated funding for state scholarships promised to students.

Going back on such promises is just plain wrong. Yet, wrong or not, if the money isn't there to fund them they can't be funded.

Stephanie Kim, a Tacoma News Tribune reporter, looked at one such scholarship program that's been eliminated in this state -- the 27-year-old Washington Award for Vocational Excellence program, referred to as WAVE.

The suspension of the WAVE program means 128 people who won the award will not receive funding for their education -- and, in some cases, the opportunity for higher education will be lost.

The state will save about $2 million a year by suspending WAVE for the next two years, said Marina Parr, a spokeswoman for the Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board.

A student attending a public technical college was previously awarded up to $3,549; a student attending a public community college was awarded up to $3,135. If a student was attending a four-year university, he or she was awarded $6,081 to $8,592, depending on the university, according to the News Tribune.

Kim talked to one of the students whose education has been put on hold because of the promise not kept.

Louisa Clark of Tacoma is now looking for another way to pay for earning her degree at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. She is one of five students at Tacoma's Bates Technical College who was awarded a WAVE scholarship. The scholarship was supposed to pay for her last year at Bates and her first at Evergreen.

"Initially I was indifferent," Clark told Kim. "I was like, 'Oh that's too bad.' In the scheme of things, we all have to make sacrifices."

However, her frustration grew as the reality of her plight sunk in. Clark, the mother of a 9-month-old girl, is trying to make it all work with two part-time jobs.

A lot of folks are frustrated, including the lawmakers who made the decision to suspend the program.

And, unfortunately, the problems of funding higher education are going to get worse before they get better.

The universities and colleges have reached out to private business with some success in establishing programs for scholarships and financial aid.

This has to be an even higher priority. In addition, college and university officials -- as well as the Legislature -- need to keep tuition hikes as low as possible.

For people such as Clark, the financial pinch facing higher education is very real -- and it could crush their dreams.

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