The Path to 70%
Support Washington Students
The Path to 70%
Enrollment Crisis Continues
The Path to 70%
Support Students
The Path to 70%
Achieve 100% financial aid form completion
The Path to 70%
Free Access to Earn College Credit
The Path to 70%
Expand Outreach and Community Navigators
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 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.

Washington was already struggling to meet the goal that 70% of students earn a post-high school credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. The pandemic has made the situation worse. 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 and our future workforce is essential.

The enrollment crisis continues

“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, 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 2020 postsecondary enrollment in Washington dropped 13 percent compared to the previous year, which is twice the national rate of about 7 percent. (WSAC)

Direct College-Going Rates Dropped in 2020

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:

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

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.

Support far more students on the path to credential attainment

Enrollment drops are 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. 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

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

“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.

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

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 get students the support the need to complete the FAFSA or WASFA. Strategies should include:

  • Fund Regional Partnerships of high schools, public and private not-for-profit colleges and universities, community-based organizations, businesses, and labor organizations to provide comprehensive outreach and navigation support, including help completing FAFSA/WASFA.
  • Increase funding for work study programs to support FAFSA/WASFA completion and other college-going work in/at high schools by current college students (near peer mentoring).
  • Fund 2- and 4-year colleges and universities to run direct social media campaigns to potential students to complete the FAFSA/WASFA and apply.
  • Create a pilot with the Department of Revenue and other relevant state agencies to assess the feasibility of determining eligibility for the Washington College Grant without FAFSA/WASFA completion. This would eliminate a major barrier to college enrollment.
Washington College Grant usage by County

Washington College Grant usage by County

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

Provide free access for students to earn college credit in high school

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

Enabling students to earn college credit while in high school is a proven strategy to increase enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education. 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.

Fully funding all dual credit programs for all students, as well as providing students from low-income backgrounds with meal and transportation stipends, will reduce barriers to participation.

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

Expand outreach and community navigators

Many Washington students use and rely on academic advising, food and housing supports, behavioral health care, and tutoring as they work to start and 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

We support system changes that better meet the needs and aspirations of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds to start and stay in postsecondary education program:

  • Fund a strong, culturally responsive outreach and marketing campaign to increase awareness among students and families about available state and institutionally funded financial aid resources and other supports.
  • Provide stipends for college students from low-income backgrounds to help them cover the full cost of attendance (housing, food, technology, transportation, books/fees) and stay enrolled.
  • Expand funding (available to K-12 districts, CTCs, four-year universities and community-based organizations) for well-trained college and career advisors and counselors who have direct experience navigating postsecondary enrollment and persistence with students from low-income backgrounds and/or students of color in high schools with high poverty rates.

Rachel, Political Science student at the University of Washington

Denisse, Political Science student at Whitworth University

Expand 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.

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.

© 2022 | Paid for by College Promise Coalition

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