Washington students have big dreams for their futures
Washington students aspire to careers in many fields — agriculture, engineering, health care, technology, and 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. Students rely on financial aid, scholarships, and other vital supports to get and stay on a path to a credential.
Our goal remains the same: that 70% of Washington students will earn a credential by the high school class of 2030. But many industries are facing critical workforce shortages, and even before the pandemic, post-high school education enrollment and credential attainment rates had flattened. As Washington works to recover and rebuild from the pandemic, investing in students and our future workforce is essential.
The enrollment crisis continues
Most jobs in Washington state, even before the pandemic, were filled by workers who earned some form of postsecondary credential — such as a degree, certificate, or apprenticeship. Credentials also protect Washingtonians from changes in the economy.
Despite the economic necessity of earning a credential beyond high school, far too few Washington students are completing postsecondary education and training. Fall 2022 enrollment at Washington’s public two- and four-year institutions is projected to be down by 70,000 or more students compared to fall 2019.
And 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:
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.
Provide free access for students to earn college credit in high school
Enabling students to earn college credit while in high school is a proven strategy to increase enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education. Research indicates that students who earn college credit during their high school experience are more likely to graduate high school, persist into a second year of post-high school education and complete a bachelor’s degree within four years.
Washington has a track record of investing in opportunities for students to explore their education and career options through classes and other experiences. Expanding opportunity and breaking down barriers, especially financial ones, to Washington’s dual credit programs in public and private, not-for-profit colleges and universities will launch more students toward success in post-high school education and careers.
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
[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
Support far more students on the path to credential attainment
Far too many young people have not enrolled in post-high school education or training as planned, and progress toward their career goals has stalled. Also, a record number of Americans are resigning from their jobs, driven by labor market changes and accelerated by the pandemic. Many career switchers are realizing that they need additional education and training to land a new job.
Progress on Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) educational attainment goals and key measures
We must take action now to ensure Washingtonians have the opportunities to earn a credential and succeed in the workforce.
Amanda, fourth-year Evergreen State College student and first in her family to attend college
Achieve 100% financial aid form completion
Washington has a nation-leading financial aid initiative, the Washington College Grant. But too many students can’t access this financial aid because of barriers like financial aid application completion challenges. Our state currently lags way behind many others in supporting students to complete the application:
The #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker is an interactive data dashboard that tracks and ranks states’ progress toward 100% of their high school seniors completing the FAFSA
Financial aid is a game changer for many students, so the legislature and state agencies should work to provide assistance to students and families on FAFSA/WASFA completion to open the door to the Washington College Grant and Pell Grants.
Jesus, first-year Grays Harbor College student and first in his family to attend college
Expand High-Demand Pathways
I was interested in the medical field but unsure how to get a foot in the door. My aunt was working for the Edmonds School District and told me about Career Connect Washington. When I went to an informational meeting for their Career Launch apprenticeship, it seemed like the perfect way for me to learn more about working as a medical assistant while earning money.
Leela Cohen completed an apprenticeship program with Kaiser Permanente in Bothell
Career connected learning gives students the chance to gain real-world skills and explore careers, launching more young people toward success in apprenticeships, college and other 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.
Our state must grow capacity in workforce training and high-demand fields, including health care and STEM. The need for degrees and credentials in these areas continues to grow.