Pushing more Washington students toward college or career training after high school is the goal, not top magazine rankings.
TWO national magazines recently published their annual best-college rankings, and some Washington schools gained some temporary luster as a result. But no matter where state schools land on national rankings, Washington needs more of its young people from a variety of backgrounds to continue their education past high school, either in college or career training.
Washington state has set high goals for college attainment through its Washington Student Achievement Council. By 2023, at least 70 percent of Washington adults, ages 25-44, should have a post-high school credential, as the council desires.
To reach that goal, the state is going to need to invest more money in a focused way to reap dividends for its residents and economy. That might come from growing revenues, changing spending priorities or the new investments in K-12 education.
First, the Legislature should fully fund the State Need Grant to serve nearly 24,000 college-bound students from low-income families who are eligible for a grant but have not received one. Grants were given to 69,000 students in 2015-16. The Legislature has made steady progress toward meeting demand for the State Need Grant but must complete that work.
Many young people would benefit from more opportunities to earn college credit while attending high school, through programs like Running Start and access to Advanced Placement classes and exams.
The state must continue to provide more money to state colleges and universities so they can teach more students, especially in high demand fields like nursing, computer science and engineering. Washington students who are smart enough to study engineering or computer science — and to fill the jobs of the future — should not be turned away at the college door.
Of course, college is not the only way to obtain a post-high school certificate. Apprenticeship programs and other technical training should also get ample support in the state budget.
The state must also continue to provide more high school counselors and programs that encourage all students to enroll in post-high school education and training programs.
Washington institutions provide an excellent — and reasonably priced — education for the students who make it to college. The next goal must be to dramatically increase the number of students who walk that path.