70,000+ Fewer Postsecondary Students Enrolled in Washington Compared to Pre-Pandemic

The crisis of stagnant or declining postsecondary enrollment – a concern even before the pandemic – is deepening at WA public two- and four-year colleges and universities. According to data shared with the Washington Roundtable by the state’s public postsecondary institutions:

  • Fall 2022 enrollment of resident undergraduate students at Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities is down by nearly 10,000 students (11.3%) compared to pre-pandemic figures (fall 2019).
  • Preliminary data also indicate that enrollment across the state’s 34 community and technical colleges is down by could be down upwards of 60,000 students (an estimated decline of 26% or more).

The decline in postsecondary enrollment contrasts with the increasing economic need for credentialed workers in Washington state. From Nov. 2021 to Nov. 2022, employers added more than 130,000 jobs in Washington state. That follows a decade of economic growth when a credential—such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate—had become essential for jobs that offer a good salary and advancement opportunities.

Read more about the picture of postsecondary enrollment in Washington in fall 2022 in our latest report. Meeting students where they are and improving the postsecondary credential attainment rate is critical to our state’s future.

 

Around the Table: Bristol Myers Squibb, Bank of America, Microsoft

Supporting inclusion: Congratulations to Bristol Myers Squibb, recently recognized as a top pharmaceutical company for inclusiveness in oncology clinical trials based on Bioethics International’s new index for measuring the fair inclusion of underrepresented patients in clinical research. Learn more.

Building community leaders: Bank of America continues its commitment to youth leadership development by providing a cohort of high school students the opportunity to participate in their hands on eight-week program where they will develop skills they can utilize in civic, social, and business leadership. Learn more.

Innovation in education: Take a look back with Microsoft at the November 2022 Showcase School Summit and discover how educators are using technology to empower students. The company also recently opened registration for its fourth annual Imagine Cup Junior (ICJ) global student competition. ICJ offers an opportunity for students to learn about technology and how it can be used to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

POLICY AGENDA: Sharing Our Priorities for 2023

Washingtonians have demonstrated tremendous strength and resiliency following the COVID-19 pandemic. State revenue collections continue to come in higher than expected and employment projections remain strong. That said, national efforts to tackle inflation and other challenges raise concerns about the potential for an economic downturn.

Amidst these challenges, state policymakers have an opportunity to chart a course to diverse and inclusive statewide growth. This work must include preparing for an uncertain economic future with a commitment to sustainable fiscal policy that limits spending growth and avoids added cost burdens on employers; infrastructure investments that support economic vitality; and focused efforts to ensure Washingtonians are positioned to earn the post-high school credentials they will need to access the career opportunities of the future.

The members of the Washington Roundtable are fully committed to these efforts, and we are pleased to share our 2023 Policy Agenda. We look forward to hard work, strong collaboration, and progress on behalf of communities, employers, and families across all of Washington state.

REPORT: Why Washingtonians Value Credentials But Aren’t Completing Them

Research in 2021 indicated that Washington would add 373,000 net new jobs over five years, at least 70% of which will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential. It is vitally important—to our state’s future and our residents—that more Washingtonians pursue the credentials that fuel our workforce and our economy. Yet, postsecondary enrollment stagnated through much of the last decade and declined markedly during the pandemic.

As a state, we must better understand why more Washingtonians don’t pursue and complete the credentials they need to succeed in the job market.

Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning, in collaboration with social-impact research and consulting firm Kinetic West, sought to explore the attitudes and beliefs of Washington adults who decided not to pursue postsecondary education or stopped before completing a credential. Our research partners surveyed 800 Washington adults, largely under age 35, who have not completed education or training beyond high school. Research findings indicate these Washingtonians:

  1. Recognize the value of postsecondary education and believe they would be better off with a credential.
  2. Most frequently cite cost as a barrier to postsecondary attendance.
  3. Want access to more hands-on postsecondary learning and opportunities to earn money while they learn.
  4. Desire more flexibility in how and when they could access postsecondary education, and want to be able to move through credentialing programs more quickly.
  5. Were not dissuaded from postsecondary education by discouragement from others or a belief that they wouldn’t be welcome on campus.

Read more in this new report.