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Paying for College in Washington State

Information and financial aid for undocumented students

Thanks to the REAL Hope Act, many undocumented students now qualify for state financial aid to attend colleges and universities in Washington. At, undocumented students and families can learn about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in-state resident tuition (HB 1079), the DREAM Act, financial aid application for DREAMers, and link to colleges and universities.

Students are more likely to drop out of college because of debt and money management issues than low grades. Set a budget, watch your debt levels, and plan ahead.

Types of Financial Aid

  • Grants do not have to be repaid as long as students enroll and successfully complete the courses for which they enroll.
  • Loans must be repaid. Students get loans with several conditions to be met, including paying back the funds (with interest) in the future.
  • Work-study offers employment for students. Jobs are either on-campus or off-campus and usually relate to students' program of study.
  • Scholarships are awarded based on an application. Good grades, talent, financial need, and program of study are just a few ways to earn a scholarship.

"Opportunity Pathways" — Student Financial Assistance Programs

Washington Opportunity Pathways logo Washington Opportunity Pathways is a label for state and federal financial assistance programs in Washington that helps students and their families pay for college. It is not a financial aid award and does not include student loans.

Federal Financial Aid

If you plan to attend college this fall — or any quarter during the next academic year — fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) right away.

Community and technical colleges award federal, state, college-based grants, and work-study based on your FAFSA. Priority deadlines vary from college to college, so check with the school of your choice for its financial aid deadline.

Because many aid programs, including the State Need Grant, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, students should complete the FAFSA application process well in advance of college deadlines.

Last year, nearly 22,000 Washington students who met financial eligibility requirements did not receive State Need Grants because demand for financial aid exceeded the supply of budgeted dollars.

Get a head start with the financial aid calculator.

The state of Washington provides a variety of financial aid programs to help students and their families pay for college.

Opportunity Grants

The Opportunity Grant program helps low-income students achieve at least one year of college and a certificate in high-wage, high-demand careers. Eligible students may receive funds to cover tuition and mandatory fees for 45 credits and up to $1,000 for books and supplies per year. Support services like tutoring, career advising, college study skills, emergency child care, and emergency transportation are part of the program. Interested students should contact the Opportunity Grant Coordinator at the college they want to attend.

Worker Retraining program

Receiving unemployment benefits, exhausted benefits within the last 24 months, facing lay-off, or employed in a declining industry? You may be eligible for Worker Retraining funding and support to help eligible students gain the skills needed to return to work.

Tuition waivers

Certain populations are eligible for full or partial reduction of tuition. These are called tuition waivers. These tuition waivers vary by campus, so check with your registration office.

Some examples are Oregon border county residents, military veterans, senior citizens, higher education employees, active duty military/Washington National Guard, children of deceased or disabled law enforcement officers and firefighters, families of fallen soldiers and families of disabled veterans.


A variety of scholarships may be available from each college based on financial need, program of study or major, academic merit, leadership or community service. Many colleges offer scholarships through their Foundations or list scholarships at their websites.

There is a lot of free advice online about scholarships and how to apply for scholarships.

Remember! If you are asked to pay money to get a scholarship or a list of scholarships, then it's probably a scam. A scholarship is not guaranteed, so beware of anyone trying to sell "guaranteed" scholarship matching services.

Scholarship search tools is a free, online clearinghouse for Washington State students seeking college scholarships.

Washington Student Achievement Council has state and national search databases and tips about applying.

Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, coordinates several major scholarships.

Scholarship highlights

The College-Bound Scholarship covers four years of college tuition, fees and books for low-income students who sign a pledge in 7th or 8th grade promising to graduate from high school and to demonstrate good citizenship.

The Passport to College Promise Scholarship program encourages foster youth to prepare for and succeed in college.

The Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholarship Program helps community college students of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement complete bachelor’s degrees at the University of Washington, Seattle.


Educational tax credits

Qualified tuition and fees paid may be claimed against federal income taxes.

American Opportunity, Hope and Lifetime Learning Education Credits

Child Care Credit/Other Credits

Save for college with Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET)

Guaranteed Education Tuition is Washington’s prepaid college tuition plan. With GET, you prepay for your child’s college tuition today. Your account is guaranteed to keep pace with college tuition, and you can use it at nearly any public or private college in the country.

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