Postsecondary Education: Still A Long Way to Go in WA

Published on: December 30, 2013

high_school_graduatesThe following is an op-ed from The League of Education Voters.

We hear again and again how important education beyond high school is for our kids.

We know that getting a postsecondary degree — whether that’s a technical credential, an associate’s degree or a diploma from a four-year university — can significantly improve a student’s quality of life and earning potential.

And, we know that in today’s economy having a degree beyond a high school diploma is increasingly necessary for employment. In fact, a Georgetown University study projects that by 2018 two-thirds of all jobs in Washington will require some kind of postsecondary training.

We know all this, but Washington still has a long way to go in making sure all kids have what they need to succeed. Washington high schools are only graduating 74 percent of students. And once our kids graduate, having a high school diploma does not necessarily mean that they are prepared for what comes next. In 2010, 39 percent of graduates from Washington State high schools who enrolled in a Washington two- or four-year college required at least one class of remedial education.

Remedial classes not only mean students take more time to graduate, it also means their degree is more expensive, and parents know the cost of higher education is a serious concern. Nearly 100,000 Washington college students took out student loans in 2011, and the average loan was for $7,905.

One way to make sure students can afford a higher education is to give them access to classes that allow them to earn them college credit during high school. These dual enrollment programs, like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Career and Technical Education, and Running Start can give students the start they need for career and college success.

As another step toward a solution, Washington approved a 24-credit career and college ready diploma. The new diploma increased credit requirements for math, science, foreign language, and created career concentration requirements. The new diploma aligns with the slate of courses needed to gain entrance into four-year universities as well as help students develop a skill and knowledge base in their chosen career path.

However, these requirements have not gone into effect force because the state legislature has not provided funding to schools to implement them.

Increased enrollment in dual enrollment courses and the approval of the career and college ready high school diploma are important steps to making sure all students earn a meaningful high school diploma and are positioned to succeed in college. We know what steps to take to help our kids succeed after school — now we need to make sure we take action.

This post was co-written by Brenda Running and Jake Vela. A longtime advocate for improving learning outcomes for all children, Brenda, mother of three, lives and works in Maple Valley as a classroom assistant providing literacy interventions for struggling learners.  Jake is a policy analyst at the League of Education Voters.

The League of Education Voters (LEV) is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization made up of parents, students, and leaders who believe in a quality education from cradle to career. LEV is the only Washington-based organization working to improve public education from early learning through higher education. We shape the debate, build powerful coalitions and grow the grassroots to achieve meaningful reform and ample resources for education.

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