Employers in Washington state are expected to add 373,000 net new jobs over the next five years.
Most of these jobs—an estimated 70%—will require or be filled by workers with a post-high school credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate. Currently, there is a 27-point gap between economic demand for credentials and the rate of actual credential attainment. Many factors have contributed to this gap. One area of major concern: the postsecondary enrollment rate for Washington’s high school graduates.
Nearly 50,000 fewer students enrolled at Washington’s community and technical colleges in fall 2021 than in fall 2019. Resident undergraduate enrollment at Washington’s four-year institutions experienced a dip in the first year of the pandemic, and the situation worsened in 2021 as students continued to face hurdles in their efforts to plan for and pursue post-high school credentials.
Enrollment drops among young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds is particularly concerning to experts and education advocates, who say a concerted effort is needed to increase enrollment and ensure students are prepared for the jobs Washington will add in the years to come.
Advocates are urging Washington lawmakers to take specific action that will encourage and support student enrollment, including expanding opportunities for students to earn college credit while in high school, providing more direct supports to students, and building and expanding pathways to and through post-high school education and training.
“I don’t think I would have been able to stay in college without financial aid and mentoring,” says Asha Douglas, a student at Gonzaga University. “In May, I will earn my bachelor’s degree in English and plan to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. I want to see this opportunity to earn a credential expanded to as many Washington students as possible.”
To find out how Washington can help students succeed and address the enrollment crisis, visit collegepromisewa.org.
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