Op-ed calls investment in postsecondary education “a building block for economic recovery” and “catapult” to opportunity.”

A Seattle Times op-ed makes a strong case for postsecondary education. The piece is by John Mosby, president of Highline College, and Ron Sims,  a former King County Executive, and former U.S. deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development who now serves on the Washington State University Board of Regents. They cite a recent report by the Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning, about which we wrote here.

Mosby and Sims quickly summarize some highly relevant statistics.

As the Roundtable report points out, those disproportionately affected by the public-health and economic crises are people of color, young people and those with no postsecondary credential. Job losses in Black and Latino households have been 22% to 27% higher than white households. Workers age 20 to 24 in Washington state have filed for unemployment at double the rate of people over 25. And the unemployment rate for workers with only a high school diploma is twice that of those with a bachelor’s degree or above.

And they emphasize,

The economic crisis created by the pandemic presents major challenges, but we cannot let current circumstances slow our state’s recent postsecondary progress. Investment in postsecondary credential attainment is one of the fundamental building blocks of economic recovery and a catapult for those furthest from opportunity. Elected officials and policymakers must support postsecondary attainment — especially for first-generation students of color — by taking strong action at the local, state and national level.

With the state facing a major budget shortfall, maintaining the required investments in postsecondary education may be a challenge. During the Great Recession, higher education absorbed major budget reductions, as it lacks the statutory and constitutional protections of areas of the budget like basic education, debt service, and Medicaid. Sims and Mosby are familiar with the experience and write,

At the state level, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature must prioritize higher education in the upcoming budget deliberations. The effects of dramatic cuts to higher education during the Great Recession were disastrous and must not be repeated.

They also have advice for local and federal officials. We recommend their commentary. It advances the discussion that will be taking place shortly as state, local and federal leaders deliberate over additional responses to the pandemic-induces recession.