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

Topic: Western Washington University

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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.


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

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.)


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

September 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Sticker relief: First thoughts of a new public college parent

“Here’s the bill for Western,” I told my husband this summer, waving a piece of paper in the air. “Tuition and fees are going to be $8,965.”

“Per quarter?” he asked.

“No! We’re in the state school system now. That’s for a whole year.”

I’ve been covering higher education in Washington since 2011, and I’ve also experienced college as a parent through the filter of my daughter, who’s been at an out-of-state private college for the past three years. But this fall, my son becomes a freshman at Western Washington University, and for the first time I’m the parent of a student in the system I’ve been writing about.


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

August 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Best bang for your college buck? UW ranks 6th

A wide range of institutions and publications will be rolling out national — in some cases, international — college and university rankings in the coming weeks. In this space, we’ll take note of some of the most interesting ones.

The national magazine Washington Monthly tries to downplay prestige and play up value in its “Best Bang for the Buck” list, with rankings based on the economic value students receive per dollar. Among national universities, that list puts the University of Washington-Seattle at number 6. Washington State University ranks 45th. 

Among master’s-degree-granting universities, UW-Bothell ranks 5th, and The Evergreen State College ranks 17th. Central Washington University comes in at 29th, and Western Washington University at 32nd.

Among all schools in the country, regardless of the highest degree awarded, UW-Bothell ranks 6th, and UW-Seattle ranks 15th.

The monthly magazine also has a second, broader ranking that looks at more than money.  For that list, it “asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. Are they educating low-income students, or just catering to the affluent? Are they improving the quality of their teaching, or ducking accountability for it?”


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

April 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Why colleges are pushing diversity

Last week, Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard drew sharp criticism from conservative groups for saying that Western needed to attract more minority students. About 76 percent of the school’s enrollment is white.

It’s worth stepping back  for context on the issue and a look at how the state’s young adult population is expected to shift in the coming decades.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which does demographic research to predict what future classes of high-school graduates will look like, projects a steady decrease in the number of white students graduating from Washington high schools. Indeed, the percentage of white students reached its peak in 2010-11 with a high of about 48,000, and is expected to drop to 38,000 by 2027.

Whites make up about 68 percent of public high-school grads in Washington today, and in 2020, will make up 65 percent. Among public high-school graduating classes, whites will remain a majority in Washington through 2028 — but just by a sliver.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Bruce Shepard, demographics, higher ed

February 8, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Kids and college: Compass 2 Campus’ frequently asked questions

Compass 2 Campus mentor Alisa Kathol, a freshman from Mill Creek, interested in secondary education, answers students questions at Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Compass 2 Campus mentor Alisa Kathol, a freshman from Mill Creek, interested in secondary education, answers students questions at Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Sunday’s Education Lab story focuses on a mentoring program out of Western Washington University called Compass 2 Campus.

The main idea behind Compass 2 Campus? Convince kids that college is for them by exposing them to the idea of higher education — starting in fifth grade.

As part of the program, mentors give young students the chance to ask them anything about their college experience. Here are some examples of questions they frequently hear:

  • Do you live with your teachers? 
  • Does everybody live together at Western? 
  • What do you do at WWU?

Comments | Topics: Compass 2 Campus, mentoring, Western Washington University

February 8, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Guest: Compass 2 Campus helps new teachers navigate challenging classrooms

Stevie Olsen

Stevie Olsen

I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I started college at Western Washington University. Students at Western don’t have many opportunities to work with students until they enter the education program, and as soon as I heard about Compass 2 Campus, it became my main priority to not only get experience working with students but also to be able to give back to the community.

Looking back, I know the time I spent as a Compass 2 Campus mentor has helped me create meaningful relationships with my students as a professional teacher today.

During my time in the program, I worked with students facing the same behavioral and academic problems I see today. In my first year with Compass 2 Campus, there was a student who did not have many friends and was underperforming academically. After talking with him, he had told me he wasn’t planning on graduating and that he wanted to run his own auto shop. He and I had long conversations about how it was important to graduate and to learn math (his hardest subject) because he would have trouble running a business if he couldn’t handle money.

After working with this student for three years, he was earning all A’s and was more confident about his academics. He also turned to me to learn about technical programs that he could get involved in after high school.

Today, in my first year as a teacher, I work in a Title I school teaching a combined first- and second-grade class that includes students who are around the same academic level between first and second grade. In this setting, I must modify all of my lessons to fit the needs of my students as well as making sure they are all meeting the Common Core standards. Coming into my first year of teaching, I knew it was going to be challenging, not only because it was a split class but because this school is known to have a high teacher turnover rate.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Compass 2 Campus, Western Washington University

February 6, 2014 at 2:50 PM

What do you wish you would have known about college ahead of time?

WWU campus (Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times 2011)

WWU campus (Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times 2011)

For many young people, deciding to go to college isn’t really a decision at all. Whether it’s their parents, teachers or other role models, someone at some point makes it clear that higher education is part of their future.

The idea of college degree isn’t nearly as certain for other kids. In rural areas outside of Bellingham, for example, the percentage of high school graduates who go to college often lags the state and national average.

Our next full-length Education Lab story focuses on a mentoring program at Western Washington University called Compass 2 Campus. The idea behind Compass 2 Campus is simple: Convince kids that college is for them by exposing them to the idea of higher education — starting in fifth grade. Look for the story in print on online this Sunday, Feb. 9.

In the meantime, we’re interested to hear about readers’ own experiences surrounding higher education. Who first exposed you to the idea of college? Did you always see yourself on campus, or was it a struggle to get there? Even if you did not attend, what do you wish you would have known about college when you were younger?


Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: Compass 2 Campus, higher ed, Western Washington University

December 23, 2013 at 5:00 AM

WWU top-ranked for efficiency and quality

WWU campus (Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times 2011)

WWU campus (Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times 2011)

The latest take on college rankings from U.S. News & World Report makes Western Washington University a state standout.

The new ranking attempts to find schools that “were able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in the 2014 Best Colleges rankings, but spend relatively less on educational programs to achieve that quality,” according to Robert Morse, the magazine’s director of data research.

The magazine came up with the ranking by taking each school’s 2012 fiscal year financial resources, and dividing it by the school’s overall U.S. News Best Colleges score. The Best Colleges score is derived through a formula U.S. News created that is based on academic quality and the magazine’s own view of what matters in education. The Best Colleges rankings have long been controversial precisely because, some critics saythey reward schools that raise prices and shut out all but the most privileged applicants. 

As for the efficiency and quality ranking, “This calculation reveals how much each school is spending to achieve one point in the overall score and its position in the rankings,” Morse wrote.

According to U.S. News, Western spends $211.86 per student for each point on the U.S. News overall score. 


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, U. S. News & World Report, Western Washington University

December 16, 2013 at 5:00 AM

What a geologist can teach us about better science education


WWU geology professor Scott Linneman, left, with former students Joe Butorac and Adam Shier. Photo courtesy Matty Photography

Here’s a novel idea that could flip high-school science education on its head:

Instead of teaching biology as the first course for high-school freshmen, start instead with physics.

That’s one of the many ideas burbling from the mind of Scott Linneman, a geology professor at Western Washington University.

Earlier this year, Linneman was chosen as the state Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

In addition to his geology work, Linneman plays an important role in helping to teach K-12 student-teachers how to teach science in an engaging way. We chatted with Linneman recently about teaching geology, preparing new teachers for the field and the best ways to improve science education:

Q: Why did you become a geology professor?

A: I became a geologist probably because it was something I knew almost nothing about, growing up in central Illinois — I’d never had an earth science class, ever, so when I was first exposed to it at Carleton College it was an entirely new world to me, and I loved the problem solving, the historical aspect of it…Halfway through grad school, I realized I loved TA’ing (working as a teaching assistant), and I could see ways to improve student learning…


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: engineering, geology, math