The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship has announced commitments totaling $21 million in support of scholarships for low- and middle-income students pursuing degrees in the fields of health care, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Coupled with a $20 million commitment from angel investor Gary Rubens in April, the new gifts from Microsoft ($10 million) and former Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, ($11 million) boost total private funding for WSOS to $41 million. The State of Washington matches private contributions dollar-for-dollar for students who graduate from high schools in the state and declare a major in a STEM or healthcare-related field at an in-state institution, boosting the total to $82 million in support of scholarships this year. WSOS estimates it will be able to support sixty-one hundred additional students over five years with the latest commitments.
Launched in 2011, WSOS aims to enable low- and middle-income students to devote their full time and energies to STEM and healthcare degrees, which typically require more studying than other degrees. Such commitments can present a financial challenge for those students, who often must work while attending school.
"These investments will plug the leak in the STEM pipeline, attract more students to pursue degrees in these fields, and ensure that young people, regardless of financial status, will have an opportunity to secure a vibrant future in Washington's innovation economy," said WSOS executive director Naria Santa Lucia. "The support we've seen from private donors and the legislature in 2015 will make such a difference in the lives of students who dream of well-paying, promising careers."