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October 11, 2006

University of Washington promises free tuition to low-income students

News and Information

University of Washington President Mark A. Emmert will announce today a new scholarship program guaranteeing full payment of tuition and fees for students from the state of Washington who come from low- and lower middle-income families.

The new program, called “Husky Promise,” guarantees full tuition and fee scholarships for students attending the University who are residents of Washington state and who qualify for Pell Grants or State Need Grants. Students whose family incomes are at or below 65 percent of the state median income — currently 235 percent of the federal poverty level — will qualify for the scholarships. In general, a family of four with an income of $46,500 or less will be able to send their children to the University of Washington tuition free.

The program will start next fall with the 2007-08 academic year. The University expects to support some 5,000 students a year in this program, comprising approximately 20 percent of the total number of undergraduates at its three campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. All full-time undergraduates who qualify financially are eligible, whether they entered the University as freshmen or transfer students.

“This is a promise we are making to students for whom cost is often a deciding factor in whether they choose to pursue a college education,” said Emmert. “We believe the inability to pay should not prevent any Washington student who academically belongs here from earning a degree. I can’t think of a better investment.”

The University will provide the funds from a combination of federal, state need-based financial aid programs, and University scholarships. Students from low and lower middle-income families currently receive Pell Grant and State Need Grants amounting to $44 million. The University currently funds about $25 million in scholarships from gifts or endowment funds and grants from tuition revenues. It is estimated that in the sixth year of the program, the additional annual cost for guaranteeing tuition to this cohort of students will be $1.6 million to $2.8 million.

“What makes the Husky Promise possible is a classic public-private partnership,” said Emmert, “whereby public tax dollars and private gifts to the University combine to make this sort of opportunity available to students who otherwise could not afford to go to college. These students will get a world-class education for free. It’s a perfect partnership.”

To help fund this program, in the final year and a half of its $2 billion Campaign UW: Creating Futures, the University of Washington Foundation will focus its efforts on raising more support for student scholarships. The Campaign, which will conclude in June 2008, currently stands at $1.8 billion towards the $2 billion goal