Washington’s economy is heavily dependent on workers who complete a credential after high school, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. Credentials have become more essential for individuals and our state as our communities realize the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the early months of the pandemic, unemployment for high school graduates was 9% (nearly three times higher than it was a year prior at this time), compared to an unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree of 4.8%. Post-high school education helps individuals gain the knowledge and skills they need to pursue careers over a lifetime, succeed economically, and create strong communities.
As we seek to recover from the pandemic, it is clear that a post-high school credential is as important as ever to enable people to succeed in our economy, particularly people of color, young people, and people who are low-income. Young Washingtonians and displaced workers alike will require training and postsecondary education to meet the demands of today’s world.
To get there, the College Promise Coalition is focused on:
- Enabling more Washingtonians to earn credentials as a critical economic recovery strategy. Training or education after high school is essential to provide Washington students with the opportunities necessary to succeed in our state’s changing economy. Studies repeatedly show a credential after high school is one of the strongest predictors of lifetime earnings and other positive outcomes. And credentials protect Washingtonians’ careers from changes in the economy.
- Protecting progress we have made. In 2019, the Washington State Legislature took historic steps to support Washington students and families by passing the Workforce Education Investment Act (HB 2158). In 2020, the Legislature affirmed that commitment by passing ESSB 6492, fixing technical problems and ensuring a strong financial footing for the programs in WEIA. 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.
- Increasing equity in Washington state. Communities of color that are low-income have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. Cutting post-high school education would only exacerbate that inequality. Reaching our goal demands that Washington fund robust certificate and degree programs and support services for those who have been historically and structurally excluded.
- Investing in students’ pathways to success. Many Washington students use academic advising, food and housing supports, behavioral health care, and tutoring as they work to complete their credential. The current public health crisis has increased the need for student support services. As we look to a stronger future in our state, investments in supports like these will break down barriers for students to find and succeed on their best-fit education-to-career pathway, particularly students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and students who are the first in their family to attend education after high school.
- Increasing higher education enrollment in Washington by 10,000 students per year for the next three years, with a focus on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds from the high school graduating classes of 2019-2023. The pandemic has interrupted students’ plans, driving a drop in enrollments in our public and private, not-for-profit colleges and universities across Washington. Investing in a three-year Enrollment & Recovery initiative could address the lost opportunities and support enrollment of students in all available pathways beyond high school. Learn more HERE.
Read our full 2021 agenda HERE.
Learn more about the Path to 70% and watch student stories HERE
Here are a few examples of what our members are saying and doing: