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Update: Sorting out Washington state’s new Endorsement process - Part 2

by Dave Wendell

In the original article I stated that WA’s new endorsement law would change the way the Dept. of Licensing would handle subsidizing motorcycle training classes, the amount the training companies could charge for classes; that these financial changes could take effect on July 1, 2020, and that I would update the article once those changes were all decided upon and made final. Well, here we are in August of 2020, and I finally have all of the information.

The DoL’s decision on how to structure the class subsidy payments had a LOT to do with the input they received from the schools regarding the fact that what they could charge had been limited by law and hadn’t changed in over 10 years. One of the biggest discussions in all of this centered on the disparities the schools have from each other depending on which part of the state they were located in. Up until July 1st, the DoL paid each school the same amount of subsidy per student, which varied by class type (Basic Course, Intermediate Course, etc.). In other words, the school in Wenatchee was receiving the same amount (example: $135 for a Basic course student) as the schools in Seattle, and the schools were limited to charging only $125 for a Basic class despite the fact that the cost of training a student in those two areas is very different. Rents for training sites are higher in the denser population areas as one example. That total of $260/student across the entire state was enough for some of the schools in eastern WA, but it was gradually driving the schools in western WA into cutting services (bike maintenance, etc.) just to keep their doors open as rents, insurance, the cost of training bikes, etc. all continued to increase.

The new structure is somewhat complicated, but the basic premise is that the DoL will pay a smaller amount of subsidy per student (less than the $135 they were paying for a Basic class), for any class that leads to a permit or an endorsement, and that amount will vary depending on how quickly the fund that money comes from is being depleted during the state’s bi-annual budget cycle. In other words, if that fund is drawn on more quickly than anticipated during the first part of the 2-year cycle, the amount of subsidy per student will be decreased in an attempt to keep some amount of subsidy available throughout the entire 2-year cycle. If that fund is used up completely before the end of the cycle, then there will be no more subsidy payments until the beginning of the next cycle.

The training schools are no longer limited in what they can charge the student; and if the subsidy fund is depleted more quickly than anticipated, the schools will get less (or no subsidy at all) and could subsequently increase their prices to make up the difference. And because different schools have different costs, what students will now find is that there is a fairly big difference in what it costs to take a motorcycle training class, depending on where they choose to take it.

As I said in the original article, there are, as of January 1, 2020, two different levels of testing for a 2-wheel motorcycle endorsement. All but one of the schools have decided that they will only include the Level 1 (permit level) testing with their Basic class, and the Level 2 (endorsement level) testing either completely separate from a class, or combined with an advanced class, but again, there is one school that doesn’t include the Level 2 testing with an advanced class.

With one exception, at any school in western WA a student will pay at least $195 for a Basic class, and it could be as high as $299; as long as there is some subsidy money available from the DoL. If that subsidy money from DoL runs out at any point in the 2-year cycle, a Basic class could be as high as $360. Conversely, at the schools in eastern WA a student will pay anywhere from $125 to $175 for a Basic class.

Advanced classes that include the Level 2 testing run from a low of $100 to a high of $200, again this assumes that there is subsidy money available from DoL. Without that subsidy money an advanced class that includes Level 2 testing could be as high as $295, depending on location. [Please note that none of these prices include what any of the companies offering Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy classes cost.]

If you’re up for a weekend road trip, you could get a Basic or Advanced class for significantly less than what it would cost closer to where you live. Then again, if you need the convenience of taking training in your local area, you may end up paying quite a bit more that you would have prior to July 1st.

Break down of costs by training school (pricing obtained from individual websites, current at time of publishing)

Published August 2020

School General area served Basic class $ (subsidized) Advanced $
CMS Mount Vernon & north $250 $185
WMST Everett, Auburn, Silverdale, Aberdeen $299 $199
ESC King County $299 $200
PSS Pierce & Thurston Counties $195 $195
SWMS Cathlemet, Longview $150  $175
FACT Yakima $125 $200
SMS Spokane $150 $165
WSMS Spokane $150 $150
CWMT E.Wenatchee, Moses Lake $175 $175
MTI Richland $150 $100


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