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

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December 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Lawmakers: College Bound scholarship good, could get better

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

By some measures, the state’s College Bound program — which promises financial help to many low-income students — has been a runaway success.

Since 2007, for example, about 186,000 students have signed up, and the number grows each year. In the past few years, nearly every student who meets the eligibility requirements has signed up. To qualify, students must maintain a C average in high school, apply for federal financial aid and stay out of legal trouble.

But earlier this year, some legislators wondered if the seven-year-old effort should be tweaked to make it more effective.

In the spring, the Legislature created a work group to study College Bound. The group’s report, released this week, suggests some small changes, and also gave College Bound a ringing endorsement. The program will cost $48 million in 2013-15, and an estimated $74 million in 2015-17 if it is fully funded.

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December 17, 2014 at 6:02 PM

UW, WWU rank as best college values by national magazine

The University of Washington and Western Washington University have once again made it on the list of 100 top public schools that offer the most value for the money. The ranking of colleges and universities is done annually by Kiplinger’s Magazine.

The UW ranks 11th in value for in-state students. WWU ranks 91st. They’re the only two Washington public schools that made the list, ranking in the top 100 best values for both in-state and out-of-state students.

On a separate Kiplinger’s ranking that compared private universities, two Spokane schools make the top 100: Gonzaga University, 36th, and Whitworth University, 45th. And among liberal arts colleges, Whitman College in Walla Walla ranks 29th.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education, University of Washington, Western Washington University

December 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students need more help with college costs, state council says

A state council that’s responsible for charting the future of  Washington’s higher education system recommends a big increase in college financial aid programs.

That was one of the recommendations the council recently made to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature, saying more aid would help more Washington students get the training needed to fill jobs in the future.

Inslee followed some of the panel’s recommendations when he released his education budget highlights Monday, but not all of them.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education

December 16, 2014 at 4:13 PM

UW panel: Triple the UW medical school program in Spokane

A University of Washington panel headed by former Gov. Dan Evans believes the best way to quickly increase the number of doctors working in rural Washington is for the UW to expand its medical school program in Spokane.

The panel also recommends creating more residencies in rural areas, particularly Eastern Washington.

It did not weigh in on what’s become a sore point between UW and Washington State University:  whether it’s also necessary for WSU to build its own, separate medical school in Spokane to alleviate the physician shortage. The panel’s report notes that it was not given the task of determining “if a separately accredited medical school is necessary or should be pursued by WSU.”

The UW and WSU, which used to work together to provide medical training at WSU’s Spokane campus, split earlier this year over how best to increase the number of doctors in Washington’s rural areas. There is a shortage of primary care doctors in those areas today, a problem that’s expected to get worse as baby boom-era doctors retire.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education, University of Washington, Washington State University

December 11, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Colleges offer to freeze tuition, but only if they get more state funding

The WSU campus in Pullman. Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times 2011.

The WSU campus in Pullman. Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times 2011.

Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities would agree to freeze tuition for another two years if the state Legislature increases college funding by 16 percent, the presidents of those institutions said Thursday.

That 16 percent, which would total $198 million, would also allow the schools to expand their enrollment and increase the number of students who earn degrees in high-demand fields, according to the statement from the Council of Presidents, made up of the presidents of Washington’s six four-year schools.

The request comes at a time when the state faces a $2.35 billion budget gap. Earlier this year, the state budget office asked the institutions to model a 15 percent cut — not an increase. The presidents warned that such a cut would be devastating.

The six schools received about $1.2 billion in state funding in the 2013-15 biennium, a slight increase from the previous two years. Before that boost in funding, the institutions had been raising tuition by double-digit amounts. Although the Legislature increased funding in 2013 and 2014, it also put a halt to skyrocketing tuition increases by instituting a two-year tuition freeze.

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December 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Annals of a college parent: Graduating in four years is a challenge at WWU

We love a lot about Western Washington University, where my son enrolled this fall. But I’ve had one nagging worry about sending him to Bellingham — that it’s going to take him more than four years to graduate.

Our 18-year-old is finishing his first quarter as a freshman. A recent report by Complete College America underscores my worry: At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Taking another quarter, or another year, to graduate would mean another big chunk out of our checkbook.  Complete College America estimates that an extra year at a four-year university costs parents and children $68,153 — the combined cost of attendance and lost wages. (They have a recipe for helping more kids graduate on-time; you can read their report here.)

Washington’s four-year public colleges do better than that, but in a pattern that reflects a national trend, graduation rates appear to have slumped for students who went to school during the recession. Only 35 percent of Western students who went directly from high school to WWU in fall 2009 had graduated by fall 2013. (The previous year’s class did better — 48 percent graduated in four years, and 65 percent graduated in five years.)

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Annals of a college parent, higher education, Western Washington University

December 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How Colorado pioneered its engineering redshirt program

Today at noon, we’ll be doing a Google+ hangout to talk more about the Washington State Academic Red Shirt program, or STARS, which is helping to boost the number of women and minority students studying engineering at the University of Washington and Washington State University.  A story about the program appeared in Monday’s Seattle Times.

The program was modeled after a similar program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which is in its fifth year. The director of that program, Tanya Ennis, will be joining us.

CU-Boulder calls its program the GoldShirt program, not only because gold is one of the school’s colors, but also because “we look at the students as a treasure,” Ennis said. (The idea is the same, though — give selected students from low-income schools an extra year of preparation to help them succeed in engineering.)

A few things are different about the Colorado program: Students are required to stay in on-campus housing for two years (the UW requires one year). The program has also been putting more money into scholarships so that students don’t have to work during the school year. In effect, CU-Bolder asks them: “How much money would it take for you not to work?” Ennis said.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education, STEM

December 1, 2014 at 7:35 AM

UW academic redshirt program draws more women, minorities into engineering

Devin Pegues, left, and Casiano Atienza work on a math problem during a recent class at the UW. This math workshop uses whiteboards and group problem-solving to bring engineering-level math to first-year students. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Devin Pegues, left, and Casiano Atienza work on a math problem during a recent class at the UW. This math workshop uses whiteboards and group problem-solving to bring engineering-level math to first-year students. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

When she got the letter in summer 2013, Courtney Seto thought it sounded too good to be true.

A free program that offered automatic acceptance into the University of Washington’s engineering school? Did everyone get this letter?

Seto had already been accepted to the UW as an incoming freshman, but she expected to apply to the College of Engineering at the end of her sophomore year, competing against a thousand other UW students, of which only about 55 percent get in.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: diversity, STEM, University of Washington

November 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Why North Dakota is increasing, not cutting, higher education

When the great recession hit in 2008, most state legislators, including those in Washington, made up for a shortfall in revenue by cutting funding to higher education. That’s why college tuition skyrocketed over the past few years, often by double-digit amounts, at public colleges and universities across the country.

But two states — North Dakota and Alaska — have taken advantage of rapidly-improving economies in their states to put money back into higher education.

A Hechinger Report story out this week tells why North Dakota pumped more than a quarter of a billion dollars into the University of North Dakota in recent years, along with $80 million into North Dakota State University and another $179 million for public colleges and universities statewide.

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November 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

UW students prepare to fight to keep tuition from rising

The University of Washington’s most politically astute students are gearing up for a major lobbying effort next year in Olympia to try to keep tuition from rising in 2015-16. They kicked off the effort Monday night at the UW with Gov. Jay Inslee as their dinner speaker.

The major focus of next year’s legislative session will be boosting K-12 funding, both because the state is under court order to pour more money into public schools, and because voters this month approved an initiative to reduce the number of students in public-school classrooms.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee

That’s made higher-education advocates nervous about the possibility of significant cuts to the state’s colleges and universities — cuts that would surely usher in major new tuition increases.

On Monday, the Associated Students of the University of Washington held their annual lobbying dinner in the Husky Union Building on campus, with more than a half-dozen legislators and the governor in attendance.

Inslee talked about going broke as a student at Stanford University, transferring to the University of Washington and squeaking through without having to take out loans. “I want to prevent your generation from being saddled with multi-decadal debt,” said Inslee, who noted that the average debt borne by the graduate of a Washington four-year college is now $22,560.

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