While school buildings are closed and distance learning the tool of the day, a new report from the Washington Roundtable and the Partnership for Learning is timely and welcome. “The Path to 70% Credential Attainment” reminds us of long-term goals — goals beyond the present pandemic moment. The report acknowledges the challenge.
Washington educators, students, and families are charting new waters in 2020 as students transition to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we seek to navigate this crisis together, the Washington Roundtable and its education foundation, Partnership for Learning, remain focused on what it will take to recover and prepare Washington students for the future. We believe more so than ever that completing a credential —such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate – is essential to that preparation
Just 33% of students in Washington’s high school class of 2006 earned a credential by age 26. That number ticked up to 36% by the class of 2009. (Education Research & Data Center, 2019) Analysis by Kinetic West, a Seattle-based social impact consulting firm, projects credential attainment by age 26 will increase to 41% for the high school class of 2017. That represents an average annual increase of less than 1%. At that speed, Washington will fall 20 points short of the credential attainment goal, with just 50% of high school students in the class of 2030 attaining a credential by age 26.
Remember the goal:
IN 2016 WE SET A GOAL: By the high school class of 2030, 70% of Washington students will go on to attain a postsecondary credential by age 26.
We endorsed the goal in our 2017 Opportunity Washington foundation report, noting
Increasingly, the majority of jobs in Washington will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential (such as a technical or industry certificate, apprenticeship, or degree). Today, just 31 percent of Washington high school students go on to attain such a credential by the age of 26. The mismatch between workforce readiness and job openings hampers our collective ability to take advantage of the potential economic growth that lies ahead
This chart makes clear how steep the ramp-up will have to be to reach the summit.
It’s a short, highly-readable report with specific recommendations. Among them:
Postsecondary enrollment must increase by an average of 53% across all institutions. That means Washington must enroll 29,000 more graduates from the high school class of 2030 into postsecondary programs than the number projected to enroll from the high school class of 2017…
Postsecondary completion must increase 14% on average across all of Washington’s postsecondary institutions.
The report also acknowledges the role to be played by the state’s new legislation designed to support credential attainment.
The Washington State Legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment Act (WEIA) in 2019, seeking to increase support for postsecondary education. With new business tax dollars, the WEIA account is slated to substantially increase student financial aid during the 2019-21 biennium and provide additional funding to the state’s postsecondary institutions and agencies. Over the long-term, we expect these funds to be used to pursue the highest leverage opportunities available to drive progress toward the 70% credential attainment goal.
It’s important to remain focused on the goal.