WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

"Take Five" for WSU and higher education, In the News, The state of higher education in Washington State

Support Washington Competes – the path forward

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For the first time in recent memory, the entirety of the higher education community has come together to advance an initiative that will build on recent investment by the Washington legislature.

The initiative is aimed at serving more students and strengthening the state’s competitive advantage by increasing investment in Washington’s college and university systems.

WSU Impact fully embraces what the Washington Competes initiative stands for this coming legislative session. We believe that higher education is a public good, and everyone benefits when there are more college graduates.

The initiative is strongly supported by all six of the public four-year institutions, including Washington State University. Working together, the initiative identifies those priority areas in public higher education that need ongoing state investment. Joining the initiative are the members of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Independent Colleges of Washington.

images-219Washington Competes calls for targeted funding to support college degrees that meet workforce demands. The initiative members are working with the legislature to fund resources and programs that help college students be successful and graduate on time. It is collaborating with our state budget decision makers so they understand that maintaining the quality of higher education institutions, like WSU, ensures that all students will excel in today’s competitive marketplace.

During the Great Recession of a decade ago,  higher education in our state faced drastic reductions in funding. With the support of advocates like those who used WSU Impact to contact their legislators, cuts stopped. And by 2015, the legislature invested again in higher education.

The results?

Tuition was reduced and Washington was the only state in the union to take such action. For WSU in particular, the 2015-2017 biennial session was a banner year and for students and parents, a welcome relief.

However, there are still issues that the state and its higher education community need to address and the legislature and WSU Impact need to support. And, Washington Competes is the initiative to tackle the challenges.

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Source: Education Research & Data Center data downloaded August 2016

The state of Washington has low college participation. In 2012, Washington ranked 47th in the nation for participation in college by age 19. Only 36.7% of Washingtonians in that age group are attending college. In comparison, 46.8% of all Americans in this same age group are attending a postsecondary institution.

What’s alarming about this statistic is that 30 years ago, Washington ranked 8th nationally.

Not surprisingly, with the relatively lower number of young students attending college, the state ranks 40th in public bachelor’s degrees produced per 1000 population aged 20 to 34.

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Source: Education Research & Data Center data downloaded August 16

As universities work with lawmakers to ensure college is affordable and accessible, and students have services and resources to succeed in college, it is imperative to appreciate the workforce needs of our state’s economy.

By 2020, 70% of the jobs in our state will require some post-secondary education – one of the top percentages nationally. 33% of our state’s jobs will require a bachelor degree or more. The chart below, from A Skilled and Educated Workforce – 2015 Update, is informative to the education level needed to fill job openings between 2018-2023:

best-pie-chart-of-education-degree-need

Nearly all the jobs created in the recovery, 11.5 million out of 11.6 million, have gone to workers with at least some post-secondary education. Combined, the workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher have accounted for 8.4 million of the 11.6 million jobs gained in the recovery.

Meeting employer demands in our state will require universities and legislators to work together to invest in student success to fuel our economy, particularly in STEM-related fields and high demand programs. Some facts help to frame the needs:

  • Washington State ranks #2 nationally in the concentration of STEM-related jobs and #3 in STEM job growth
  • By 2018, 70% of STEM jobs in Washington will require a bachelor’s degree or greater
  • 73% of all job growth in STEM between 2014 and 2024 will be in computer occupations
  • The largest workforce gaps at the baccalaureate and graduate levels in Washington are in computer science, engineering, education, and the health occupations
  • Many of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade are project to be in the healthcare fields
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Working in teams and actively engaging with teammates to experience real world problem solving is a hallmark of WSU’s curriculum, readying graduates for today’s workforce needs

And, employers are also sharing with universities the other skills they need from workers. 63% of 400 employers surveyed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities think that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge that apply to a variety of fields is important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success at their companies.

When asked which of the 17 skills and knowledge areas they most valued, employers ranked the following as most important:

  • The ability to effectively communicate orall
  • The ability to work effectively with others in teams
  • The ability to effectively communicate in writing
  • Ethical judgment and decision-making
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
  • The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings

Bottomline, postsecondary education is essential to being competitive in today’s economy. Washington’s economic success and ongoing growth depends on a strong, resilient education system that includes early learning, K-12, and higher education.

If you agree that the educational and economic challenges require increased state investment to improve student access and degree completion, preserve college affordability, and maintaining the high quality of  WSU and other institutions, please click here. WSU Impact is your personal resource to directly connect to your three legislators’ inboxes in Olympia, and from the comfort of your own computer or mobile/tablet device, share your support for ongoing investment in higher education.

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