Improving postsecondary attainment draws legislative interest; the challenge is significant

Attention paid to K-12 funding should not come at the expense of tending to the state’s poor performance in boosting postsecondary education attainment.  The issues represent a continuum, not an either/or choice.

A recent article in The Lens suggests that policymakers are beginning the session mindful of both of these challenges.

Representing the largest four-year public universities in Washington, the Council of Presidents on January 17 told the State Senate Higher Education Committee their institutions need additional funding to boost certificate and degree attainment, and student achievement. The push is timely, even if the outcome is far from assured. A recent report from the Washington Roundtable accents the state’s alarmingly low proportion of high schoolers who go on to earn postsecondary degrees.

Lawmakers agree higher ed needs a boost, but exactly how to do that is a work in progress.

The policies under consideration look good.

They say they would like to see:

  • operating budget incentives for state universities to improve their degree completion rates;
  • more dialed-in counseling of two- and four-year college students to help them navigate academic and fiscal challenges;
  • closer alignment between job skills programs at two-year colleges and the emerging needs of nearby employers;
  • greater emphasis in K-12 on core subject mastery and college readiness;
  • and better use of assessments in K-12, so students can make the right career path choices.

Read the article, which also does a good job of reviewing the tremendous  career opportunities opening up in the next five years. 

Boosting postsecondary attainment requires, among other things, graduating more students from the K-12 system…and graduating them with the knowledge and skills required for career and college success. 

Another story in the Lens reports further on the postsecondary challenge,

“We’ve seen great progress in Washington’s schools in recent years. Graduation rates are rising and more students are achieving at higher levels. However, clearly, significant numbers of students are struggling,” said Roundtable President Steve Mullin in a news release.

Continued Mullin, “We need a concentrated statewide plan to get our students ready, including strategies and targeted supports to help struggling students and turn around low-performing schools.”

It’s good to see lawmakers are recognizing the problem and crafting responses.