Renton starts pilot program providing free college tuition

May 19, 2023, 12:56 PM | Updated: May 22, 2023, 9:17 am

Renton Technical College...

Renton Technical College is part of the pilot program that allows high school graduates to attend for free. (Renton Technical College)

(Renton Technical College)

Free college for high school graduates in Renton will soon become a reality. The new pilot program is called the Renton Promise.

Representative Steve Bergquist is a public school teacher who has also been a small business owner. The Renton Promise will allow qualified students to attend Renton Technical College after high school.

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“I think this opens the doors to more opportunities for students to see what their pathways can be,” Bergquist said on The Gee & Ursula Show.

The state operating budget includes $400,000 (from the workforce education investment account) for Renton Technical College to administer the pilot program.

“I’ve been a teacher in the Renton school district as well, as a state legislator for quite a while now,” Bergquist said. “And emerging from the pandemic, I saw college enrollment drop as students graduated.”

Bergquist stated many students aren’t getting a college or trade school education because they couldn’t afford it.

“My goal was to at least open that door for more students to seize that opportunity to continue on to at least a community college to begin that career opportunity,” Bergquist said. “They will have a chance to go to Renton Technical College for free for the next two years. It’s specific to that particular college, so this is just a pilot, to get this thing going.”

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Bergquist said if you are a graduate of the Renton School District this year and want to go to Renton Technical College, you can get two years of tuition and fees free, as long as you fill out two financial application forms. This is regardless of income.

“I think the pushback would be what happens if you’re paying for somebody that maybe already has a significant income to go to school if they can afford it anyway,” Bergquist said. “The whole point is to get everybody to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Bergquist said he had one of his students come into the counseling center at RAND High School with the idea that they couldn’t afford college. He said he wasn’t planning on going next year.

“After the counselor explained what the opportunity was, he came back a few minutes later and said, ‘Hey, I need to get an application written to the technical college because I see a path now.’ And that’s what we’re aiming for. And if we pick up others on the way, the more, the merrier,” Bergquist said.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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