Protecting higher education in state budget must be a priority

Increased in-state bachelor’s degree production is critical, both for state residents who wish to realize the benefits of expanded opportunity and higher earning power and for the employers who would hire them. This Seattle Times editorial encourages lawmakers to keep higher education healthy and affordable

Some might argue that we’ve already seen the state’s higher ed system slip out of the “healthy” state, but the editorial makes the right point.

While the Legislature grapples with increasing funding to K-12 education in a way that actually improves outcomes for students, lawmakers have two important goals when it comes to higher education. First, budgets for the state’s community colleges and universities should see at least modest increases. Second, lawmakers should try to keep college as affordable as possible.

On the Opportunity Washington listening tour last summer, we heard a lot about the importance of postsecondary education – anecdotal information fully supported by the research. We noted:

By 2020, estimates are that 70 percent of jobs in Washington will require some form of postsecondary education (compared to 65 percent nationally)…

Increased in-state bachelor’s degree production is critical, both for state residents who wish to realize the benefits of expanded opportunity and higher earning power and for the employers who would hire them…

Adequate state support for higher education is a fundamental ingredient in building a culture of opportunity and expanding economic prosperity statewide. But it is not simply a matter of more education; the education provided must prepare students for the jobs being created within the economy.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial board points out, growth in state revenues makes the budget task easier once the unaffordable class size reduction initiative is stripped away.

One key source of that revenue growth: a robust tech sector. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports on a new study highlighting the economic and employment impact of the state’s tech industry, demonstrating again that education is the key to fueling opportunity and statewide prosperity.