Legislation to increase Running Start access moves forward

Senate Bill 5670 would allow rising high school juniors to enroll in a limited amount of college credits over the summer.

A bill by Sen. Brad Hawkins (R, District 12) to expand Running Start opportunities was approved unanimously by the Senate on Feb 2.

First made available in Washington state during the 1992-1993 school year, Running Start programs typically allow 11th- and 12th-grade high school students to complete college credits while earning their high school diplomas.

The tuition-free program reduces the likelihood of debt accrual while allowing students to work toward earning an associate’s degree.

Concerned about the abrupt transition between high school and college courses, the bill plans to expand the opportunity to students entering 11th grade.

“Unfortunately, a full load of Running Start college coursework for high school juniors can shock the system,” Hawkins said in a statement. “Allowing students to gradually begin the program during the summer months — either online or in person — could help ease them into college and help them experience success.”

In the approved version of Senate Bill 5670, students between 10th and 11th grade, “rising juniors,” can earn 10 college credits during the summer before their junior year.

A full-time Running Start student typically enrolls in 15 credits per term.

“I’m calling it a ‘Walking Start to Running Start,’” Hawkins said in a statement. “Students who can take some of the credits over the summer will have more success in their Running Start programs because they can familiarize themselves with the campus over the summer, get to know students and faculty and ease into their college experience without feeling overwhelmed.”

The bill will now be under further consideration by the House of Representatives, making a stop in the House Education Committee. The bill will advance to Governor Jay Inslee for consideration if approved by the House.