Why Don't Washington State Students Go Onto College?

From the Times, a story about Washington State and the low rate of college attendance. 

More than half of Seattle adults 25 and older hold a bachelor's degree, making it one of the most well-schooled cities in the nation.

So it may come as a surprise that only about one in four public-school students from Washington's high-school class of 2009 will finish college by 2015, according to a Seattle Times analysis of recent trends.

While the percentage of high-school graduates who went to college jumped by nine points in the United States over the past two decades, the percentage of college-going high-schoolers in Washington fell.

We were once well above the national average for the percentage of high-school students who go on to a two- or four-year college.

But today, by some measures, we are one of the lowest states in the country.

When they do go to four-year colleges, Washington students do well: The average graduation rate at the state four-year schools is 69 percent, one of the highest in the nation.

One of the reasons?  A K-12 public-education system that scores just above average on many national measures of quality, and in some cases — such as funding — falls below average.

No kidding.  It's a funny thing to see the K-12 system get dinged but we don't even fund to the national average and yet we expect great results.

Who else doesn't get funded?

Some say the Legislature's tendency to treat higher-education money as a rainy-day fund when tax revenues drop has kept Washington higher education chronically underfunded.

I also laughed at another reason - we don't have any "top-tier" private universities like Stanford or MIT.  Most states don't have a Stanford or MIT - elite universities are few and far between.  I'm not sure that's correlates to why we don't have more Washington State students going to college.

What's interesting is that you see an article like this and then the Times recently had another one about an elementary school in Kent that has a college prep focus.

Man, the howls from the comment section about how every child isn't going to college, it's dumb to have this kind of focus in elementary school, etc.

Can't have it both ways. 

What is clear is that vocational ed is coming back in a big way but now has a more direct coupling with the academics needed to graduate.   (On that note, sad news that the bright and energetic head of SPS' CTE program, Shep Siegel, is leaving.  He will be heading the NW division of Project Lead the Way, a provider of STEM curriculum to middle and high schools.  Shep is a really smart, inspiring guy and it's a loss to SPS.) 

No, not every student is going to college but we need to encourage that thinking of "beyond high school."  


Anonymous said…
One of the biggest reasons kids don't finish college is MONEY. It is now common practice for schools to give their best financial aid offer for freshman year, thus hooking the student. Aid tends to go down in subsequent years. If the student can't make up the difference, they drop out or switch schools. Or, if they can't keep their grades up to the required level (though not flunking) they also lose aid—no money, no school.

We won't see more students attend and graduate college until the costs go down drastically—especially for middle class families. Few part-time student jobs make enough money to pay for college these says.

Solvay Girl
Chris S. said…
"Seattle Times analysis" - oh my! that inspires such confidence. Actually it's not a bad article. Is this a new edu reporter at the times?

What would be interesting is a scatter-plot of all states, income tax rate vs. college graduation rate.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, you identify (albeit indirectly) one of the reasons that more WA students don't go to college --- the strength of CTE. More specifically, the strength of the CTE lobby in Olympia. Whenever OSPI or the State Board of Education or any other agency tries to build a stronger pathway to college (2-year or 4-year), the CTE lobby and their friends like the Association of Washington Business gets revved up to oppose said any college readiness initiative. CTE treats college and career readiness as a zero-sum game, i.e., they think every college readiness initiative equals a loss for career readiness. It's like populism vs. elitism. Legislators then get cold feet and either defeat the college readiness initiative or water it down so much that it's ineffective in implementation.

--- someone who knows
word said…
But then the Washington businesses fill their technology needs with individuals educated in countries that have made an investment in education.


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