The Path to 70%
Support Washington Students
The Path to 70%
Credentials Are Essential
The Path to 70%
Support Students
The Path to 70%
Strengthen Economic Recovery
The Path to 70%
Protect Progress Made
The Path to 70%
Invest in Success
The Path to 70%
Expand Pathways

Washington students have big dreams for their futures

A college education is about more than just me and my needs. I want a college degree so that I can support my future family and provide them with experiences / opportunities my parents could never give me.

Emilee, second-year Gonzaga University student and first in her family to attend college

Washington students aspire to careers in any number of fields — agriculture, engineering, health care, technology, and much, much more. Many seek skills that will enable them to best serve their communities. Others aspire to be the first in their family to attend college. Many rely on financial aid, scholarships, and other vital supports to get and stay on a path to a credential.

We cannot afford to let the future prospects of our young people be a COVID casualty. As Washington works to recover and rebuild from the pandemic, investing in students is essential.

Education beyond high school is more important than ever

“So many people in my nursing program couldn’t go to school without financial aid”

Quincey Christenson studies nursing at Heritage University. When she was 12, Quincey spent a lot of time in the hospital — time that inspired her to become a nurse. Click play to hear Quincey’s story.

Most jobs in Washington state, even before the pandemic, required some form of postsecondary credential — such as a degree, certificate, or apprenticeship. Credentials also protect Washingtonians from changes in the economy, such as the recession we are experiencing now.

Communities of color, young workers, and those with a high school diploma or less have been bearing the brunt of the current downturn. More than half of Black and Latinx households nationwide reported employment loss due to the pandemic. The national unemployment rate in October for workers age 20 to 24 was more than 1.5 times that of workers age 25 to 54. About two-thirds of workers claiming unemployment in Washington state in November did not have a credential, a 12-percentage point overrepresentation compared to the unemployment rate of non-credentialed workers in the general population.

Young Washingtonians and displaced workers alike will need postsecondary education and credentials to meet the demands of today’s world and secure a better tomorrow.

Washington State insured unemployment rate

Unemployment rates in Washington counties and by worker characteristic

Washington State average annual job openings 2017-2022

Credential demand by region

Support far more students on the path to credential attainment

“Having financial aid sets me up for the future”

Colton Reynolds studies aviation at Big Bend Community College with support from financial aid: “Financial aid is a life-saver.” Click play to hear Colton’s story.

Despite the economic necessity of earning a credential beyond high school, far too few Washington students are completing postsecondary education and training. Even before the pandemic, just 41% of the high school class of 2017 is projected to complete a credential by age 26. Our Black, Hispanic and Latinx, and Native American students are projected to earn credentials at even lower rates:

Washington State high school class of 2017, credential achievement by age 26 (estimated)

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Progress on Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) educational attainment goals and key measures

Progress on Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) educational attainment goals and key measures

Now, the pandemic is interrupting students’ plans, having driven significant drops in enrollment at public and private, not-for-profit colleges and universities across Washington last fall. Enrollment drops were particularly concerning among first-year students and students from low-income backgrounds. Far too many young people did not enroll as planned and progress toward their career goals has stalled.

What’s more: Washington’s public colleges and universities are still recovering from deep cuts made during the Great Recession. They are, and have been, doing more with less in the last decade. Now, with additional costs and revenue losses to core and ancillary services (such as student housing, food, sports, and events) because of COVID-19, the ability to help students achieve their educational and career goals is endangered. State investments in post-high school education are essential to mitigate impacts on students, particularly those furthest from opportunity, and to position the postsecondary system as a driver of recovery.

Amanda, fourth-year Evergreen State College student and first in her family to attend college

Enabling more Washingtonians to earn credentials will help us recover

Education or training after high school is important to me because both can support my future endeavor, give me a good paying job, and most especially, get my family out of poverty.

Kit, second-year nursing student at Bates Technical College

Studies repeatedly show a credential after high school is one of the strongest predictors of lifetime earnings and other positive outcomes. That means colleges and universities across the state of Washington are a critical part of our pandemic recovery strategy, including addressing inequities for students of color and knocking down barriers to credential attainment.

Some industries will emerge from the pandemic in need of an expanded workforce. Already this crisis has highlighted critical workforce shortages — particularly in healthcare and the sciences — that must be addressed through postsecondary education and training at both community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities.

Unemployment Rate by Education Attainment

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Washington State's post-secondary institutions opportunities dashboard

WSAC Roadmap Opportunities Dashboard

Jesus, first-year Grays Harbor College student and first in his family to attend college

Protect the progress already made

Receiving a grant helps me stress less and spend more time working on my education. I currently still work and balancing work to pay off loans and education to advance towards my career goals can be challenging.

Micah, first-year Biology (Pre-Health) student at Gonzaga University

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature took historic steps to support Washington students and families by passing the Workforce Education Investment Act (HB 2158).

WEIA investments include the Washington College Grant, which is available for any student from a family of four making $97,000 a year or less. Because it is a grant, it does not need to be repaid, meaning it makes the difference for thousands of students being able to attend education or training after high school. And this grant is now available to every student who qualifies.

Let’s keep it that way.

The Legislature also provided funding for career connected learning, expansion of childcare for students, outreach to support students from low-income backgrounds in obtaining financial aid, and initiatives that better enable students to complete their degree or certificate (such as Guided Pathways).

Washington College Grant usage by County

Washington College Grant usage by County

[Education is] important to me because I wanted to be the first in my family to finally be able to have the chance in going to college and learn and achieve my goals. Also, I wanted to show an example to my younger siblings that anything is possible for you, you just have to put the time and energy into it.

Anjelique, first-year nursing student at Big Bend Community College and the first in her family to attend college

Without the Washington College Grant, I would not have even considered pursuing postsecondary education. The Washington College Grant has removed my financial barriers allowing me to pursue my goals and the confidence to know that I can make a bigger impact in my community

Matthew, second-year biology student at Edmonds Community College and first in his family to attend college

Lillian, first-year biology and German student at Pacific Lutheran University

Use federal COVID relief to invest in students

Washington state is slated to receive substantial new funding from the American Rescue Plan to address COVID impacts and work toward an equitable recovery. A portion of those funds should be used to support a three-year Enrollment & Recovery Initiative that aims to address the lost opportunities and supports enrollment of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds in all available pathways beyond high school. This includes degree and certificate programs as well as apprenticeships and Career Launch programs. The focus must be on supporting students in the high school graduating classes of 2019-2023.

Coordinated efforts between high schools and colleges must be supported throughout the summer to ensure that students make their transition. Once enrolled at college they must receive strong wrap-around supports so they stay in school and complete their degrees or credential with labor market value.

We must help our young people learn financial aid. A concentrated effort to reach 100% completion of financial aid application forms by all high school seniors is needed. This will help students better explore their options and make informed decisions.

Many Washington students use and rely on academic advising, food and housing supports, behavioral health care, and tutoring as they work to complete their credential. The pandemic has increased the need for these services that students already told us were vital to their success. In our survey of more than 200 students, most cited several support services as the most important factors for successfully completing their credential:

Nearly 3/4: Academic Advising

Nearly 9 in 10: Financial Aid

More than 1/3: Tutoring

A full 1/3: Mental Health Services

As we look to build a stronger future for all of Washington, investments in student supports like these will help break down barriers and enable students to find and succeed on their best-fit pathways to the careers of their dreams.

Rachel, Political Science student at the University of Washington

Denisse, Political Science student at Whitworth University

Expand Pathways

Getting this education while I am in Running Start is important to me because I have the opportunity to have free tuition and get into the work field right after I graduate.

Tyler, Running Start student studying computer science at Big Bend Community College

Washington’s dual-credit programs and career connected learning, which gives students the chance to gain real-world skills and explore careers, will launch more students toward success in post-high school education and careers.

Career Connect Washington supports colleges, universities, and employers in designing work-based learning pathways that allow students to earn while they learn and achieve a credential.

You can explore dual-credit data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction here.

Girls at picnic bench from above by Alexis Brown on Unsplash
Young woman and man at computer station by heylagostechie on Unsplash
Student in book stacks by bantersnaps on Unsplash
Technician using a nano-spectralizer by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Hands gesturing in class by Headway on Unsplash
Student pipetting DNA samples into a tube by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Silhouette of student by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

College Promise Coalition

The College Promise Coalition is a broad-based group advocating for increased higher education access and opportunity for Washington students.

© 2021 | Paid for by College Promise Coalition

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