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Education Lab Blog

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

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Katherine Long.

April 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New report will measure a degree’s earnings potential

A state agency has gotten money from the Legislature to measure the earnings potential of various degrees, apprenticeships and certificates.

The information, when it becomes available later this year, should help students by pinpointing programs whose graduates are making good money and have a high rate of employment.

The provision was championed by state Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, and gives $46,000 to the state Education Research & Data Center to collect the information from state colleges and universities, as well as workforce training programs.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed

April 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Looking to complete that degree? UW adds another online option

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

The University of Washington has OK’d the second of two online bachelor’s degree completion programs — one that’s expected to appeal to a broad swath of adult students wanting to earn a diploma from the UW.

The degree, a bachelor of arts in integrated social sciences, is meant to be a flexible, low-cost option for adults who have already earned about two years of college credit or an associate degree.

The classes will be taught by UW faculty members and will include popular upper-level classes from all of the disciplines that comprise the social sciences — including anthropology, communication, economics, history and political science.

The program will cost $199 per credit for Washington residents, or about $9,000 per year for full-time study. (For a comparison, undergraduates who attend the UW full-time in person pay about $12,400 a year in tuition and fees.) Out-of-state students will pay about 10 percent more.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: bachelor degree, higher ed, online learning

April 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New law should alleviate some tuition surprises

M. Ryder / Op Art

M. Ryder / Op Art

A new state law requires the state’s four-year universities and colleges to do a better job of notifying students if their program is going to become fee-based, which usually causes a spike in tuition costs.

It also requires administrators to work with students and create clearer criteria for which programs fit into the fee-based category.

The law, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last week, stems from a controversy that arose more than a year ago when the University of Washington moved a number of graduate programs into the fee-based category.

Fee-based programs are not subsidized by state funding, and students bear the full cost of the program. When a program becomes fee-based, students in that program often aren’t eligible for some types of financial-aid assistance.

Some academics say the switch to fee based is symbolic of a philosophical shift — a belief that higher education, and especially graduate degrees, benefit only the people who receive the training, and not society as a whole.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, tuition, University of Washington

March 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Scholarship program for women to double number of awards

A nonprofit group has greatly expanded the number of scholarships it will award this spring to women who don’t meet the typical profile of a college student.

Washington Women in Need is doubling the number of scholarships it offers, from about 44 yearly to 88. It will also offer some women a four-year scholarship, instead of a single grant.

The expansion, which is a pilot for the organization, will help the selected women finish their degrees.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, scholarships, Washington Women in Need

March 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Understanding the quirks in state’s college completion rate

Washington’s public four-year colleges have long bragged that their completion rates — that is, the percentage of students who finish their degrees and graduate — are among the best in the nation. And according to a federal postsecondary analysis of data, they are.

But a new study by the respected National Student Clearinghouse, which verifies college degrees to employers and also collects tremendous amounts of data on college completion, appears to show that Washington’s six-year graduation rate for four-year public colleges is not, in fact, the nation’s best — that it’s worse than the national average.

How can that be?

It’s a quirk in the way colleges are classified. In 2007, a few of Washington’s community colleges started offering applied baccalaureate degrees, or four-year degrees. Currently, 11 of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges do so, and more of these degrees are likely to be approved in the future. Some of these colleges have also dropped the word “community” from their names.

So, are they still two-year colleges, or not?

According to the way colleges are classified, they’re now four-year colleges — even though only a  fraction of the students they graduate get baccalaureate degrees.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: college, graduation rates, higher ed

March 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

The promise of a $10,000 bachelor’s degree

Michael Osbun / Op Art

Michael Osbun / Op Art

Is it possible to create a bachelor’s degree that would cost students only $10,000?

A few years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott called on colleges to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. Critics argued that it was tantamount to the “Walmartization” of higher education. But those two states now offer a limited number of low-cost online degrees.

Earlier this month, Jean Floten — former president of Bellevue College and currently chancellor of Western Governors University-Washington — took part in a panel discussion on the merits of the low-cost degree at the South by Southwest education conference, or SXSWedu, the companion to the annual music, film and interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

“To me, it’s not so much the $10,000 degree, as it is that higher education needs to find better ways to deliver its content,” she said. “What can we do to be cheaper, faster, better?”


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, SXSW, Western Governors University

March 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Heritage University: a teacher-training program like no other

Corinne McGuigan had an unusual opportunity a few years ago to completely re-imagine what teacher-training ought to be like.

McGuigan, a Heritage University educator with 35 years of experience in the field, was helping her university apply for a U.S. Department of Education grant when she came up with a novel type of residency program to change the way student-teachers were prepared for the classroom. Heritage won the grant, and the private, non-profit university in Toppenish began rolling it out in 2010.

The program flips teacher education on its head in all kinds of ways. Undergraduates spend two years in elementary and middle school classrooms; the norm is about 14 weeks. They work in three-person teams with a master teacher. They follow the school calendar, not the university calendar. They learn all of their subject material from school instructional leaders; for example, their math instruction might come from the district’s top math curriculum instructor.

Teachers-in-training spend four days a week in the class, and on the fifth day have a seminar to talk about the content being taught in the classroom. “Their ability to do assessment well, to do daily data well, to find strategies that work for kids — this all comes together so well,” McGuigan said.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: Heritage University, higher ed, teacher training

March 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Not ready for college: Will Common Core help?

One of the most well-known obstacles to college completion in Washington is a lack of preparation, particularly in math. A new state council says a fix to the problem is coming soon. But one group of researchers warns that the state’s solution is a risky one that is generating controversy elsewhere.

First, some background: A high percentage of Washington’s high-school graduates fail to meet college standards for math and writing skills, deficiencies that are revealed when they take college placement tests. This is an especially common problem in community colleges, where more than 50 percent of incoming students require pre-college math classes — or developmental math — before they can advance to college-level math. And educators know that being assigned to developmental classes raise the risk that a student will drop out without ever finishing a degree.

Most educators agree that the problem ought to be fixed in high school, by making sure students are college-ready before they graduate. And one of the ways to do this is to test student skill levels in 11th grade, then use 12th grade for catch-up classes if needed.

The Washington Student Achievement Council, a new state agency that makes policy recommendations on higher education, embraces the idea of testing 11th graders, and using the senior year of high school to correct any deficiencies. The council believes the fix is already on its way; 11th grade tests are a part of the new Common Core academic standards, which are designed to prepare students for college or a job by the time they graduate from high school.


0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: common core, higher ed, Washington Student Achievement Council

February 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Washington study: College grads make 20 percent more than high-school grads

It’s widely accepted that earning a bachelor’s degree will boost a person’s earnings potential over a lifetime. But how quickly does it pay off?

A new Washington study shows that in the first two years after graduation, students who earned a bachelor’s degree made about 20 percent more than those with only a high-school diploma.

Perhaps not surprisingly, women fared worse than men in the study. Two years after graduation, a woman with a bachelor’s degree only made about as much as a man with a high-school diploma.

The report comes from the state Education Research and Data Center, which keeps data on academic performance from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: bachelor's degree, college, high school diploma

February 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Stuck on a math problem? WSU’s math center offers instant help

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

Even college students stumble over math. More than a year ago, Washington State University decided to make it easier for students to get immediate help whenever they got hung up on a problem. The program, WSU says, is helping students advance quickly through the required college math track.

The Mathematics Learning Center offers free tutoring for students enrolled in undergraduate math courses and is open 56 hours a week. Tutors dressed in white lab coats roam the room, looking for raised hands. The tutors are either math majors in their last years of college or graduate students working as teaching assistants.

Tutors at the math center are adept at helping in all levels of math. About 10 to 15 percent of WSU students require a developmental math class because their skills aren’t yet up to college level-math.


0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: higher ed, math, Washington State University

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