Tri-Cities Students Awarded $1,080,000 in STEM-Focused Scholarships

May 16

Richland, WA– A workforce development program unique to Washington is helping put high-demand college degrees within reach for 1,450 students from across the state, including 48 from the Tri-Cities.

Today Washington State Opportunity Scholarship(WSOS) announced the 2016-17 awardees, who will receive up to $22,500 over five years along with additional skill-building and professional development support. The highest number of recipients comes from Pasco School District #1, with 32 in all. Nineteen of those students are from Pasco High School, which made it one of the top ten high schools in the state to receive awards. There are also 14 awardees in the Kennewick School District and two from the Richland School District.

The Mid-Columbia students will receive the scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year, making them eligible to receive up to a total of $1,080,000 in scholarships throughout their time in college. WSOS was created in 2011 to address both rising tuition costs and a lack of local STEM talent prepared for industry demands. Per the legislation that governs the program, the State matches private dollars raised by WSOS, including founding partners Microsoft and Boeing. To date, the program has raised nearly $95 million from the private sector.

Demographics represented by the students selected from the Tri-Cities are 67% female, 85% students of color and an incredible 94% will be the first in their family to attend college. All are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in approved majors in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and health care fields.

"These students represent the future of our state," said Naria K. Santa Lucia, executive director for WSOS. “And because of that, we are laser-focused on helping these students persist in their major, graduate on time and launch their careers here at home.”

WSOS saw a 300% percent increase from Tri-Cities area students over last year’s submitted applications. This increase is a result, in part, of strategic collaboration with the Mid-Columbia STEM Network, with leadership provided by Washington STEM.

A skills gap study by business advocacy group Washington Roundtable and international consulting firm Boston Consulting Group in 2013 found there are more than 25,000 “acute” unfilled jobs in our state. Acute unfilled jobs are defined at those that have been unfilled for three months or more due to a lack of qualified candidates. Eighty percent of those jobs are in high-skill, high-demand STEM and health care fields. The gap is projected to reach 50,000 jobs by next year, with 90% of those openings in health care and STEM roles.

“As a major employer in our community partnering with local colleges, CH2M is a direct beneficiary of these scholarships,” said John Ciucci, Chief Executive Officer for CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company. “Our hiring strategy focuses on STEM graduates who commit to our local economy so we are thankful for the tangible investment these scholarships bring.”

Over 5,400 students have received support from WSOS and nearly 1,500 have graduated since the program began. Nearly 90 percent took jobs here in Washington.

The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2011 to help local students from low-income and middle-income families earn high-demand degrees and launch their careers in Washington.