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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

April 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Washington’s two-tiered system of higher education

Last Sunday’s story, “From Slipping Through the Cracks to the College Track,” noted that despite our brainy national image, Washington state has shockingly low college-going rates compared to the rest of the country. Only 60 percent of high school graduates here enroll in any four-year institution.

But for low-income kids, the rates are truly troubling.

Among the Class of 2012, only 18 percent enrolled in four-year colleges. Instead, many chose to attend no-barrier community colleges — even those who do well in school and score highly on standardized tests. Number-crunchers at the State of Washington Education Research & Data Center ran figures for The Times, and found that only 21 percent of low-income students who’d tested well in math went to four-year schools. But about one-third enrolled at community colleges (see graph below).

Meanwhile, their more affluent academic peers tended to choose four-year schools. In other words, it appears that Washington has created a two-tier system of higher education.

Check out our Google+ Hangout, held Thursday with Vashon High School junior Zoey Salsbury, California high school counselor Angela Tang, and Jameil Butler from the National College Advising Corps, for more insight on the many ways that students find their way to college — or don’t.

Courtesy State of Washington Education Research & Data Center

Courtesy State of Washington Education Research & Data Center

Comments | More in News | Topics: Community colleges, counselors, graduation rates

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