The 2023 legislative session resulted in several policy changes and investments that support Partnership for Learning’s goal that 70% of Washington students complete a credential after high school, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or industry-aligned certificate or license. New policies the legislature passed include:
- Earning College Credit in High School:
- All costs will be covered for high school students taking College in the High School courses, for which they earn both college and high school credit. Students who earn college credit in high school are much more likely to go on to postsecondary education. This new law is a significant win for students and advancing progress toward increasing the post-high school education enrollment rate (SB 5048).
- Students can now earn up to 10 college credits cost-free via Running Start courses during the summer (HB 1316).
- Tuition Timing: Students will know the cost of tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities for the upcoming academic year, allowing them to make better-informed enrollment decisions (SB 5079).
- Student-level Data Sharing: Washington colleges and universities will be better able to support students’ transition from high school because of improved data sharing between OSPI and postsecondary institutions (SB 5593).
- Improved Education and Career Planning: The state will adopt a universal digital platform for the High School and Beyond Plan to improve students’ access to tools and resources that enable career exploration, course planning, and preparation for post-high school education (SB 5243).
- WSAC Regional Challenge Grants: The new state budget includes funding to continue grants that support regional partnerships aimed at increasing postsecondary enrollment and credential attainment.
Partnership for Learning worked closely with many important partners to support these policies, and we are grateful for the collaboration. As we seek to raise the rate at which Washington students enroll in and complete post-high school education, these new laws and investments can ease students’ experiences in the critical transition from high school to college and career training.
Learn more about our work and join us at www.credentialessential.com.
The crisis of stagnant or declining postsecondary enrollment – a concern even before the pandemic – is deepening at Washington’s public two- and four-year colleges and universities. According to data shared with the Washington Roundtable by the state’s public postsecondary institutions:
- Fall 2022 enrollment of resident undergraduate students at Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities is down by nearly 10,000 students (11.3%) compared to pre-pandemic figures (fall 2019).
- Preliminary data also indicate that enrollment across the state’s 34 community and technical colleges is down by could be down upwards of 60,000 students (an estimated decline of 26% or more).
The decline in postsecondary enrollment contrasts with the increasing economic need for credentialed workers in Washington state. From Nov. 2021 to Nov. 2022, employers added more than 130,000 jobs in Washington. That follows a decade of economic growth when a credential—such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate—had become essential for jobs that offer a good salary and advancement opportunities.
Read more about the picture of postsecondary enrollment in Washington in fall 2022 in our latest report. Meeting students where they are and improving the postsecondary credential attainment rate is critical to our state’s future. Join us.
Research in 2021 indicated that Washington would add 373,000 net new jobs over five years, at least 70% of which will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential. It is vitally important—to our state’s future and our residents—that more Washingtonians pursue the credentials that fuel our workforce and our economy. Yet, postsecondary enrollment stagnated through much of the last decade and declined markedly during the pandemic.
As a state, we must better understand why more Washingtonians don’t pursue and complete the credentials they need to succeed in the job market.
Energy Pathways is a four-week paid summer immersion opportunity developed by Spokane-area utility company Avista to introduce incoming high school juniors and seniors to the energy industry.
For Katelyn Bartel, now a student at Eastern Washington University, the internship was life changing.
“This really opened my eyes into what I could be doing with my life. It makes me more motivated when I go to school because I know that there’s something that I’m working towards. It gives me more of a goal.”
Employers will create 373,000 net new jobs in Washington state by 2026. Seventy percent of these jobs are expected to require or be filled by workers with a post-high school credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. But our state is facing a crisis in credential attainment, with the pandemic further driving declines in postsecondary enrollment.
One promising strategy: Automatically admit students to reduce enrollment barriers.
Washington employers will create an estimated 373,000 net new jobs in our state by 2026. Seventy percent of these jobs are expected to require or be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential—such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. Bur our state is facing a crisis in credential attainment. Further, the pandemic has driven alarming drops in postsecondary education enrollment.
Our new case study explores flexible learning models that are driving up postsecondary enrollment. One particularly bright success story comes from the all-virtual Western Governors University in Washington (WGU Washington). From 2011 to 2019, WGU Washington grew from less than 1,000 to 12,000 students. As of March 2021, there were 13,905 students attending WGU Washington, and enrollment had grown 15.8% in just the last two years. By comparison, nearly all of Washington’s public two- and four-year institutions experienced enrollment declines during the same time period.
Our case study explores the five reasons WGU Washington cites for enrollment growth: an all-virtual model, flat tuition rate, flexible and student-directed learning, consistent mentoring, and streamlined academic pathways.
Yusuf remembers learning about robotics and computer science in middle school. “It clicked with me,” he says. “I was good at it, and I enjoyed it.”
During 10th grade at Sammamish High School, Yusuf’s AP chemistry teacher urged him to apply to the two-week Pathways Research Explorers Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The program provides high school students from underrepresented communities an immersive, hands-on introduction to cancer biology, lab activities, and research careers.
“I was smiling the whole time. I was having fun,” Yusuf says. “I met a computational biologist while they were explaining what they did. I thought, that’s what I want to do.”
The Pathways Research Explorers Program is a launchpad for many students who go on to participate in Fred Hutch’s more intensive programs as they progress through their academic experiences. Students conduct scientific experiments related to cancer and talk to scientists in various positions, including people from groups systematically marginalized and excluded from research.
After learning about computational biology, Yusuf completed a yearlong internship with Fred Hutch in 11th grade. Through regular meetings with his mentor, a computational biologist, Yusuf learned about both coding and biology, and used machine learning to analyze COVID-19 data.
“It was a new experience that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else,” Yusuf says.
“You belong in science”
Through science education outreach, Fred Hutch – a member of the Washington Roundtable, of which Partnership for Learning is the education foundation – actively works to recruit, support, and retain high school and undergraduate students from communities underrepresented in scientific research. Students gain hands-on STEM experience while receiving career guidance and mentorship. Program participants become cancer researchers, computer engineers, and more. The programs also serve as a way for Fred Hutch to build a diverse pool of scientific researchers and engage communities across the state.
Washington employers are expected to create 373,000 net new jobs in our state over the next five years. An estimated 70% of these jobs will require or be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential – such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. But our state is facing a crisis in credential attainment, and the pandemic has driven alarming drops in postsecondary enrollment.
Our new report explores how earning college credit while in high school can help Washington students succeed in post-high school education, examines how to increase equity in dual credit participation, and spotlights a successful partnership between Wenatchee Valley College and Bridgeport High School.
Employers will add an estimated 373,000 net new jobs in Washington state over the next five years. About 70% of these jobs will require or be filled by workers with a post-high school credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate.
Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning are focused on one goal: By the high school class of 2030, 70% of Washington students – overall and within each racial and ethnic group – will complete a post-high school credential by age 26.
But even before the pandemic, too few of Washington’s young people, particularly young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds, were enrolling in postsecondary education and completing credentials. In our new report, learn how increasing the postsecondary enrollment rate is our greatest opportunity to ensure Washington students are ready for opportunities that await.