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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: higher ed

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April 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

We’re a well-educated state — but why?

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

A new national report by the Lumina Foundation shows Washington’s college-attainment rate is better than the national average.

But because there’s not enough state-wide detail, it’s hard to know if this report merely shows that Washington businesses have been very successful at recruiting well-educated people, who grew up elsewhere, to work here.

Nationally, Lumina reports that about 38.7 percent of adults ages 24-65 have a two- or four-year college degree. “Overall, the U.S. attainment rate has been increasing slowly but steadily; in 2008, it was 37.9 percent, and in 2009 it was 38.1 percent,” the report notes. The foundation’s goal is for 60 percent of working adults to have a two- or four-year degree, or other meaningful credential, by 2025.

Washington’s rate is significantly better than the national average; here, 43.3 percent of working adults have a two- or four-year degree, and in King County, the number is 56 percent.


0 Comments | Topics: higher ed

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).


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

April 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

More help navigating the college-application obstacle course

Reuben Santos goes over scholarship possibilities with Caroline Sacerdote at Franklin High School's College Access Now office. Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times 2011

Reuben Santos goes over scholarship possibilities with Caroline Sacerdote at Franklin High School’s College Access Now office. Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times 2011

Washington’s dismal rate of low-income students enrolling in four-year schools — a stunningly low 18 percent — surprised some who read our Sunday story about college guidance and the lack of help available to many students.

School counselors, it turns out, are not trained in this increasingly complex arena, which could be a major reason behind the low numbers nationally. (Watch this space for another likely contributor to the low rates in Washington.)

Locally, the nonprofit Rainier Scholars provides a powerful answer to about 60 students each year. But the criteria to get in are rigid. You must sign up in fifth grade. You must be a child of color. And you must show academic promise, as determined by Rainier Scholars.

So what if you’re not right for that program? What if you’re a foster kid who’s bounced from school to school for years and doesn’t have great grades?


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: college readiness, counseling, higher ed

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 13, 2014 at 10:08 PM

Sunday story: Outside guidance helps high-school students get in

Maika Bui, right, a promising student from a low-income neighborhood, has been guided toward college since grade school through the Rainier Scholars program. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Maika Bui, right, a promising student from a low-income neighborhood, has been guided toward college since grade school through the Rainier Scholars program. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.


In the early mornings while driving his mother to her job cleaning houses, Victor Gomez imagined playing baseball on a college campus. It was 6:30 a.m. in America’s third-most violent city, and he would soon head to class at a high school better known for shootings than scholarship.

Yet against all odds, Victor and several dozen of his classmates will walk onto university campuses next fall, a milestone due not to stellar grades or soaring athletic potential but, instead, the work of another young man hired to create life-changing opportunities where school staff cannot.

Eight hundred miles away, in South Seattle, Maika Bui also might have settled for far less than her abilities warrant, if not for a flier she saw in fifth grade, advertising college preparation. She stuffed it into her backpack and brought the paperwork home from Roxhill Elementary School seven years ago.

Go here for the full story.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: counseling, higher ed

April 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

In their own words: Students talk about high-school counseling, applying to college

Education Lab’s latest story focuses on the changing role of high-school guidance counselors. As traditional counselors’ face increased workloads, programs like Seattle’s Rainier Scholars and the National College Advising Corps are providing disadvantaged students with one-on-one assistance as they navigate the college application process.

We recently asked several students — some from Rainier Scholars, some from the National College Advising Corps and some who have worked with traditional counselors — to tell us what they’ve experienced as they apply to college.


0 Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: college counseling, higher ed, National College Advising Corps

April 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Tell a story about how you got into college at our May 20 Storytellers event


Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Do you have an interesting story to share about getting into college? Education Lab is recruiting current students and recent grads to share short, inspirational tales about how they made a successful transition to higher education.

Selected speakers will get coaching and appear at our May 20 event, Storytellers: How I Got Into College, at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

To participate, call 206-464-2057 and tell us about an obstacle you overcame to get into college. Your recording should be no more than two minutes and include your full name, phone number and email address.


0 Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: college counseling, 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

April 1, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Guest: Double-majoring helps students balance passion and practicality

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan

We’ve heard it before: Studying the arts in college doesn’t provide financial stability and is a waste of time. Even President Obama hinted at that sentiment in his State of the Union address when he made a comment about the earnings of art history majors.

For many students, the arts are an identity. Some may have taken ballet classes or sketch self-portraits for fun. But as these students venture into higher education, many end up not pursuing the arts because of practical, personal or financial reasons.

Students who can afford it have a clear solution: double-majoring. In Washington’s state schools, pursuing two majors generally costs the same as one, if students can pack their coursework into four years. Many students who study two majors must enroll in a costly fifth year of classes, however.

School administrators and state legislators would do well to provide financial and institutional support for students pursuing two majors. Interdepartmental scholarships from the school or even state-provided financial aid can go a long way in helping undergraduates get the most out of their education.

Jordan Rohrs is a University of Washington senior majoring in business with minors in music and dance. He wanted to double-major in business and dance and minor in music, but the cost stopped him. Rohrs said he would have to pay an additional $12,000 tuition and stay an extra year to complete the two majors and minor.

Yet even now in pursuing his dance minor, Rohrs’ biggest challenge is balancing classes to maintain skills in both fields. Both the dance department and the business school only offer certain required courses at select times, he said.

“To try and bring yourself to an adequate level by doing both (business and dance) is difficult,” Rohrs said.


0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: arts, double major, higher ed

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