Washington ranks high on state-by-state analysis of need-based higher education assistance

After high school, there are several options for continuing education. From college to technical training or an apprenticeship, there are a range of possibilities.

However, many people have to decide which option they’ll choose based on financial factors. Across the country, people who can’t afford a traditional college education look to other options. Even with scholarships, relying on financial aid such as student loans can be a large burden to bear later on.

But Washington state guarantees grant funding for families making up to 100% of the median family income, meaning about half of the state population qualifies. The median family income varies by household size. For this reason, among others, Washington is gaining notability as a top state for need-based financial aid for college or career training.

The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) conducts an annual study on state-sponsored student financial aid, in which Washington has recently stood out.

Financial aid through Washington grants

Washington fared well on the latest study, ranking first in the nation for need-based financial aid.

A statement from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office says this is because of the Washington College Grant program, which is offered to families making up to 100% of the median family income. This equates to about half of the households in the state qualifying for money for post-high school education, offering up to $11,339 in awards.

“The power and promise of higher education is more accessible than ever thanks to the work of my administration, the Legislature and other Washingtonians in supporting students,” Inslee states in the press release. “It’s no secret around these parts that we have the best college financial aid in the country, and we’re proud more people are taking notice.”

Analysts with NASSGAP agree with this conclusion, despite noting in an emailhow difficult it can be to compare data between states. The report looks at numerous factors, including total dollar amounts and percentages, specific categories and other parameters in the annual report.

In an attempt to make comparison more simple, aid-per-student average is calculated for each state. Washington has the highest at $2,008, marking the Evergreen State as the first ever to offer more than $2K per student on average.

Comparing need-based aid by state

The latest NASSGAP study is based on the most recently available data, for the 2021-22 school year. Across the country, $14.9 billion in state funding went toward student financial aid that year, according to the study. The majority of this funding came from grants, and the majority of grants were need-based.

About a dozen states offered more than $150 million in-need based undergraduate grant aid, including Washington.

In total dollar amounts, the most grant aid came from:

  • California

  • Texas

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • New York

  • Virginia

  • New Jersey

  • Washington

  • Illinois

  • Tennessee

When ranked by grant dollars per estimated population:

  • South Carolina

  • Georgia

  • Virginia

  • Louisiana

  • Kentucky

  • Tennessee

  • Washington

  • California

  • New Mexico

  • New Jersey

But when looking at the grant aid per undergraduate divided by full-time equivalent enrollment estimates, the metric used by NASSGAP to better compare the state data, the order changes:

  • Washington

  • New Jersey

  • Virginia

  • California

  • Illinois

  • Texas

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