Friday in Olympia, the Republican-controlled Senate pulled off a shocker, approving the Dream Act . The bill paves the way for kids of undocumented immigrants to seek state financial aid for college.
As state senators cast their votes for SB 6523, UW senior Tania Santiago, knew her 5 year fight had come to an end.
It was very challenging, she said. Because in high school I had a staff member tell me that college wasn't meant for students like myself.
The daughter of undocumented immigrants, Santiago had no choice but to pay for college with private scholarships and working 55 hour weeks.
I am so overwhelmed with excitement that people behind me will have access to higher education through the state need grant, said Santiago.
The Dream Act comes too late for her but she celebrates with younger students like Leslie Riojas, a senior at Mount Vernon High School.
I was so nervous but when it passed, I was filled with joy, Riojas said. It was real.
Riojas believes she'll now get the same opportunities to go to college that her friends and classmates have.
I knew I was going to college, it wasn't an option, said Riojas. I'm going to college and I'm going to find a way to get there. But it was hard for me knowing what path to take.
About 74,000 students receive state need grants. An estimated 32,000 students who were eligible were turned away due to lack of funds. The Senate bill would add 5 million dollars in funding to offset an increase in caseload.
The House still needs to approve the bill, which is expected to happen this session. Governor Inslee has said he supports the legislation.