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Education Lab Blog

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

Topic: college

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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.


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

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.


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

February 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM

What you wish you’d known about college ahead of time

We received several thoughtful responses to our most recent reader question, which asked: “What do you wish you had known about college ahead of time?”

The prompt was tied to our Sunday story about how mentoring programs at Western Washington University and the University of Washington are encouraging students to pursue post-secondary education by exposing them to the idea of college at a young age. Western’s program, called Compass 2 Campus, invites younger students to ask college kids whatever they’d like about campus life; the common questions can be both easy (“Do you live with your teachers?”) and more complicated (“What if you do not have money to go to college?”) to answer.

Here are a few examples of what our readers said they wish they had known about college when they were younger. Some responses have been edited for length and grammar.

I wish I’d been taught how to study. The primary way to get a study skills class in college is when you need remedial help. But how do you remediate what’s never been taught? I learned the hard way, and I eventually got it, but if there had been a class called How to Read in College, I’d have signed up right away.

—Drego Little, Seattle

I wish I had known to do more research about my major and what it would actually do for me job-wise. I don’t use my degree for my job now, and I keep hearing about many people who take out huge school loans and graduate with few job skills. I worked my way through school, which was not fun, but at least I got out of college debt free. With recent tuition hikes, getting out debt free is much harder, and students need to make sure the loans will be worth it.

—Michelle Jones, Everett


Comments | More in Opinion, Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: college, Compass 2 Campus, higher ed

October 31, 2013 at 7:30 AM

Arne Duncan: College rating system to spotlight good deals for the money

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Going to college has never been more important — or more expensive — says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The federal Department of Education is working on a college rating system, expected to go live next fall, that will promote college affordability and value.

In a telephone press conference with reporters Wednesday, Duncan discussed elements that will likely be part of the rating system.

He was deliberately short on specifics, emphasizing that the ratings system doesn’t exist yet, and won’t be drafted until after a series of four public forums and other meetings to determine what measures should be included. (Only one of the forums will take place on the West Coast, in California on Nov. 6. More details are available here.)

Duncan called the nation’s higher-education system “the best system in the world, but a very inefficient system (with) a tremendous lack of transparency.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: Arne Duncan, college, higher ed

October 24, 2013 at 2:20 PM

How to ace a busy college fair


Gary Winchester, M.Ed., a program coordinator at the University of Washington, speaks to a student at a transfer fair held at Bellevue College earlier this year. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

College fair season is here again.

Some 15,000 high-school students and parents will descend on the Washington State Convention & Trade Center Nov. 8-9 for the annual Seattle National College Fair. Part of the National Association for College Admission’s circuit of fall fairs, the free event is the biggest college fair in our area—and can also be the most daunting.

Planning to attend a college fair this year? Here are a few tips to help you make the most of the experience:*

  • Do your homework. Many events offer a list of participating schools ahead of time. (Attendees at the Seattle National College Fair are listed here.) Budget your time by mapping out your must-visit booths—and keep in mind that you might have to wait in line to talk to admission reps at the more popular schools.

Comments | Topics: college, college applications, college fairs