Mayor Durkan Announces Municipal Match Partnership with Washington State Opportunity Scholarship for Seattle Promise Scholars

Scholarships of Up to $22,500 Available to Strengthen Financial Supports for Students Pursuing STEM and Healthcare Careers 

SEATTLE (November 18) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan along with partners from education, philanthropy and STEM industries announced a new partnership with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) to strengthen pathways to college and career advancement for Seattle Promise scholars pursuing jobs in the trades, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and health care. Seattle is the first city in Washington State to become a municipal partner for this competitive scholarship, ensuring Seattle Promise scholars have access to continued financial aid and support as they successfully complete the Seattle Promise program and transition to furthering their education at another institution.  

The City will invest up to $400,000 in WSOS through 2023 as part of the City’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Washington state will match the City’s investment dollar-for-dollar. The municipal match partnership will be funded by Federal Coronavirus Local Recovery Funds (CLFR), resulting in a total of $800,000 in new scholarship funds for up to 60 Seattle Promise scholars. While all students in the State of Washington are eligible to apply for the WSOS, only Promise Scholars will be eligible for funding made available through the City of Seattle’s new partnership. 

“Seattle Promise is transforming the lives of thousands of students. We’re proud to be the first city in Washington State to partner with WSOS because we are committed to ensuring each and every student in our city, especially our young Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and lower income students have access to college,” said Mayor Durkan. “Seattle Promise is building a better future for young people in our city by reducing the cost of college. Our partnership with WSOS will ensure students most impacted by the pandemic have continued support at the end of the program to ensure they complete their degrees and earn great jobs in critical industries right here in our City and State.”  

“The WSOS was created to unite public and private sector resources to prepare Washington students for Washington jobs,” said Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair of Microsoft and Chair of the WSOS Board of Directors. “This partnership with the City of Seattle will increase access to a scholarship program that changes lives while developing the talent our workforce needs. This investment will be doubled thanks to the legislature’s commitment to match, and demonstrates what’s possible when we act together in the best interest of students and our state.”

With two scholarship pathways, WSOS provides financial assistance, mentorship and support to prepare Washington students for careers in STEM and increase equitable access to advanced degrees: 

  • The WSOS Baccalaureate Scholarship (BAS) will provide students pursuing bachelor’s degrees up to $22,500 in financial assistance to continue their third year of college. Scholars could use the funding to pay tuition, fees, and additional student costs including housing, transportation, food and other expenses.  
  • The WSOS Career and Technical Scholarship (CTS) will provide scholars pursuing associate degrees, certificate or apprenticeship programs up to $1,500 per quarter. Similarly to the BAS pathway, CTS funds are flexible and can be used to cover costs beyond tuition.  

WSOS is a competitive scholarship program, selecting only 29 percent of eligible applicants for the BAS scholarship and 38 percent for the CTS scholarship, statewide in 2021. Just 10 percent or 400 of the 3,800 BAS and CTS recipients currently receiving WSOS support across the state are graduates of Seattle public high schools. Seattle‘s new partnership guarantees scholarships for 60 Promise students over the next two years. Both scholarship pathways extend access to valuable career mentorship to support Seattle Promise students as they continue their studies, thrive in their college classes, and successfully transition to STEM careers.  

“Combining Seattle Promise and WSOS will ensure Seattle students have the support they need to pursue the high-demand jobs in our region,” said Kimber Connors, WSOS executive director. “We know from experience that completing your degree and launching a career takes more than just money. We are thrilled to bring additional financial aid dollars, but also mentorship and support services, that will prove vital for degree completion and career launch for the students who benefit from this new partnership.” 

“This investment represents our City’s commitment to seeking innovative approaches that maximize regional resources to improve educational outcomes for Seattle BIPOC, first-generation, and students experiencing financial hardship,” said Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL. “We need more BIPoC students contributing their brilliance and talent to our local STEM and health care workforce. DEEL is proud to partner with WSOS and invest in career pathways for more Seattle students.” 

“Across the state, elected officials, business, and education leaders are all deeply concerned with the historical underrepresentation of students of color in four-year STEM and healthcare related fields of study”, said Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan. “This scholarship investment and partnership provide the key to address this inequity and ensure long-term success and viability of Seattle Promise.” 

WSOS was founded in 2011 through a partnership between the State of Washington, philanthropic donors, and leading STEM industry partners including MicrosoftBoeing, and the Rubens Family Foundation. In April 2019, the state legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment (HB 2158) which included a provision that allows for counties and municipalities to invest in the WSOS program and award scholarships to students residing in the municipality. State Rep. Drew Hansen, LD 23, a leading advocate for the program shared, “We’re thrilled that the city of Seattle has taken advantage of this partnership with the state to make college more affordable.” 

“Providing real and equitable opportunities for low-income students to land jobs in STEM benefits them, their families and entire communities. These investments will empower the next generation by growing a trained and talented workforce that meets the needs of Washington businesses,” said Chair of the House College and Workforce Development Committee, Rep. Vandana Slatter, LD 48. “I am excited for this partnership and look forward to other cities across the state taking this step, because helping our youth get the skills they will need to thrive is crucial; it’s what fighting for an economy that works for everyone is all about.” 

Transfer pathways to 4-year universities are an important avenue for postsecondary completion for many students in Seattle and Washington, especially for students of color. Data from the 2021 Washington Student Achievement Council shows that in 2019-2020, BIPOC and low-income graduates earning bachelor’s degrees in Washington State are more likely to be transfer students than other students 1. Between the 2019 and 2020 Seattle Promise cohorts, 58 percent identified as BIPOC and data indicates that 68 percent of all Seattle Promise scholars intend to pursue a transfer degree.  

“A big reason I can afford college is because of the WSOS. My parents don’t make a lot of money. WSOS made it possible for me not to worry about where money for my rent and living expenses would come from,” said WSOS scholar, Braxton Goss. Braxton graduated Chief Health High School in 2018 and studied at Seattle Central College before transferring to UW Bothell, where he is now studying computer science and software engineering. “Having access to scholarship dollars like [WSOS] made it possible for me to use my time to gain the leadership skills I needed to compete for the internship I landed for next summer. Being involved in something like this makes your college experience more fulfilling.”   

Braxton also participates in a WSOS peer-to-peer mentorship program that pairs more experienced Opportunity Scholars with a paid leadership position to help first and second-year Scholars with the transition to college. He credited scholarships like WSOS for giving him the time and opportunity to seek out leadership opportunities and experiences outside of class that have helped him hone the skills he needs to compete for internships and opportunities. Next summer, Braxton will be interning with Amazon in software development. 

Applications for Seattle Promise are open now for current Seattle Public Schools seniors who will be graduating in 2022. Applications for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship will open January 5, 2022. All students who live in Washington are eligible to apply, but only Seattle Promise scholars and high school seniors will be eligible for funding generated by the City of Seattle’s municipal match partnership.