A new report from the Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning documents how the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequities in education and points to strategies educators are pursuing to improve outcomes. “Path to 70% Credential Attainment: Recovery & Reimagining” is the latest in a series of reports the groups have published in recent years in furtherance of their goal of 70% post-secondary degree attainment.
In announcing the report, the Roundtable writes,
The pandemic is exacerbating educational inequities as the impacts of learning loss grow among K-12 students, hitting students of color and students from low-income backgrounds particularly hard. Additionally, postsecondary institutions are under intense pressure from pandemic-related enrollment declines, loss of on-campus revenue, and the threat of state funding cuts.The bright spot: a commitment from postsecondary institutions in Washington to reaching the goal that, by the high school class of 2030, 70% of Washington students will attain a credential that is increasingly essential for success in our state. We’re at 41% today.
- A persistent educational equity crisis and a COVID-19 health and economic crisis are magnifying educational disparities in Washington and threatening progress toward the goal of reaching 70% credential attainment for Washington students by the high school class of 2030.
- The COVID-19 pandemic, projected state revenue shortfalls, and loss of auxiliary and on- campus revenue are putting added pressure on postsecondary education resources.
- Washington’s postsecondary institutions are expanding their commitment to the 70% credential attainment goal and, for the first time, are making public, aligned institution- level commitments to increase enrollment and completion.
- Individual institution-level commitments and strategies to grow enrollment, increase credential attainment in high-demand fields, and better support students to credential completion are unprecedented and ambitious. These strategies can drive half the growth in postsecondary enrollment that is needed to reach the 70% credential attainment goal.
- Additional, system-level transformation across Washington’s postsecondary sector, as well as its K-12 system, is necessary to fully reach the 70% goal.
These outcomes contribute to limited career opportunities, affecting earning potential, the ability to purchase a home, generate wealth, or pass inheritance to the next generation. Compounding disparities widen the equity gap over the course of a lifetime and set the next generation up for persistent disadvantage.
The impacts of Washington’s equity crisis affect many communities of color as well as students from low-income backgrounds. These students are not equitably served by Washington’s education and workforce development systems and are thus underrepresented at each stage of the education experience.
Noting the budget stress experienced by postsecondary institutions, the report identifies priorities:
We worked closely in 2019 with the leaders of the state’s private not-for-profit and public four-year institutions, the State Board for Community and Technical colleges and two-year college presidents, and leaders from the
state’s education agencies to develop principles for investing and measuring impact of the state’s new Workforce Education Investment Account (WEIA). The same principles apply for making postsecondary investments during the recession and in recovery.
POSTSECONDARY INVESTMENTS SHOULD BE:
STUDENT & OUTCOME FOCUSED: Help achieve the goal that 70% of students in Washington’s high school class of 2030 complete a postsecondary credential by age 26.
COLLABORATIVE: Improve statewide systems, policies, and innovation that can be replicated across institutions.
EQUITABLE: Provide access and support for systemically underserved students.
COST-EFFECTIVE: Focus on the most efficient and cost-effective approaches.
INDUSTRY ALIGNED: Help Washington employers fill the jobs of the future with qualified, home-grown talent.
It’s important to acknowledge the commitments made by the state’s postsecondary institutions, summarized in the infographic below and applauded in the report.
There much more detailed analysis in the 13-page report. We recommend it to you. The conclusion is optimistic:
As we look to the future, there is opportunity to reimagine how postsecondary education is delivered in Washington state. Such exploration can include comprehensive, inclusive planning to determine statewide postsecondary system needs; funding model redesign to produce credentials across institutions and programs; work to make data more broadly available and support informed decision-making; and better coordination among the various higher education and workforce development institutions and programs. In beginning these conversations, we all have a shared opportunity to not only recover from the current crisis, but to inspire more Washington students and support them through to earning credentials that will open doors to life-long opportunity.