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Originally published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 4:11 PM

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Editorial: Passage of REAL Hope Act a good step out of the shadows and into college

Washington legislators rose above politics and congressional inaction Tuesday by passing a bill that allows college students to apply for state financial aid regardless of their citizenship status.

Seattle Times Editorial

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DULCE Siguenza, 19, dreams of a career as a psychologist.

Thanks to Washington lawmakers’ decision to pass Senate Bill 6523 Tuesday evening, she stands a better chance of reaching her goal to help others survive adversity.

Siguenza was brought to the United States illegally when she was just 11. Educated in Washington’s public schools, she attended the University of Washington for one year before the cost forced her to withdraw.

SB 6523, or the REAL Hope Act, is an expanded version of what has been called the Washington state Dream Act. It allows students who were brought here illegally as children to access in-state college tuition rates and to apply for the State Need Grant. The act added $5 million to the grant program.

It does not guarantee every student like Siguenza would receive financial aid, but that’s not the point. She can at least apply for some assistance to finish college.

“It’s a huge step forward. A door just opened for us,” she said, referring to hundreds of other undocumented students statewide. “We’ll use it toward what we want to accomplish, which is our education — and if I don’t get it this year, then maybe next year.”

Some version of this bill has been kicking around the Legislature since 2007. Seven years later, it’s finally a reality and passed both houses with bipartisan support.

Good on the Washington state Senate and House for focusing on the REAL Hope Act’s intent, which is to help students like Dulce Siguenza stay motivated, work hard and move out of the shadows.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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