Mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan announces free college plan for Seattle graduates

By: Graham Johnson

Updated:

Leshawn Dandridge just graduated from Seattle Central College and is bound for a master's program at the University of Washington.

She knows the cost of tuition is a big barrier for many high school graduates.

"When you get out of high school, I think the challenge a lot of people face in going to college is financial," Dandridge said.

On Monday, Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan said the city should pay for two years of community college tuition for any graduate of a Seattle public high school.

 


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Tuition and fees are set by a state board. For this next school year, they're $3,936.

"Almost one of three kids of color don't go to college at all and we want to really change that dynamic," Durkan told KIRO 7.

Durkan's proposal would build on a smaller program already providing scholarships.

She estimates it would cost less than $5 million the first year, and $7 million the second.

Durkan said no new taxes are needed.

"That's the beauty of this program is we can afford it today, Durkan said. "We have a $5.2 billion budget in the city of Seattle. We need less than this amount of money to make sure every kid has this opportunity. We've identified a number of areas that we think it can be taken from."

Durkan said Seattle's new soda tax is one possibility.

Another option is a $518 million fund for education coming from Sound Transit.

Legislators required the agency pay into the fund as it builds light rail, instead of paying sales and use taxes.

Staff members for Durkan's opponent, Cary Moon, told KIRO 7 she was traveling and unavailable for an interview.

In a statement, Moon called Durkan's plan "not enough."

Moon's campaign said the city needs to secure new revenue for higher education through "progressive funding sources such as a statewide tax on capital gains for households earning more than $250,000 and a tax on luxury real estate."

Moon's campaign also said the city must "invest in education from cradle to college" and "address inequity in Seattle education at its root causes."

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