Investing in a strong higher education system increases shared prosperity

In today’s Puget Sound Business Journal, Washington Roundtable makes the case for investing in higher education.

Washington’s colleges and universities help create new technologies, companies and even industries, all of which bring exciting opportunities. Indeed, Washington boasts award-winning universities and cutting-edge programs. But we can do better…

Right now, our state ranks No. 38 [in bachelor’s degree awarded per capita]. Far from the top 10 and precariously close to the bottom. …This is hardly adequate performance, particularly since we know 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary training by the end of this decade.

There is also a persistent skills gap in Washington. Twenty-five thousand jobs, heavily concentrated in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), went unfilled in 2013 because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates. That number is expected to double by 2017.

Closing the skills gap and preparing Washington students for great opportunities requires our state to do more to protect, support and promote higher education….

A strong higher education system is the most powerful tool Washington has to ensure students get those much needed skills and to spread opportunity and shared prosperity.

More evidence of the importance of postsecondary education can be found in the Opportunity Washington research report. This is noteworthy:

One additional year of schooling for employed workers with at least a high school diploma is associated with a real per-capita GDP gain of 17.4 percent and a real wage increase per worker of 17.8 percent.

As Mullin writes, it’s a difficult budget session. But the state cannot afford to close the door to higher education to students aspiring to achieve.