Before I throw a bunch of statistics at you let me get to the point. We are doing very poorly when you look at the percentage of high school graduates who continue on to college. When you factor in high school graduation rates - it looks even worse. Only a third of the 9th graders in Washington end up as college Freshmen.
According to the National Center for Higher Ed Management Systems, we rank 44th in the country in college continuation. Less than 45% of public and private higher school graduates were enrolled as freshmen in any post secondary education program. If you want to take a longer look, like the percentage of 18-24 year olds enrolled in post-secondary education, we rank 45th.
Ok. Here is where it gets really depressing if you factor in high school graduation. Looking at number of fall first-time freshmen enrolled anywhere in the U.S. divided by the number of 9th graders four years earlier, we rank 47th. Only about a third of the freshmen are in college in year 13. The national average is 42% and the top 5 state average nearly 60%.
What do we do about this? A few years ago the legislature directed the workforce board to do a survey of financial aid specialists, employment office job staff and students themselves as to what the barriers are to post secondary enrollment and completion, the biggest barrier was financial aid followed by lack of information on how to navigate college and work.
There's been a lot of talk about providing a free 13th year of education at a community college or university and the House Economic Development Chair, Phyllis Kenney and Speaker Frank Chopp have created a program called Opportunity Grants that is designed to reach this goal of a universal 13th and 14th year with income support and navigations services. But budget cuts have stymied both of these efforts.
The City of Seattle working with our school district, community colleges, foundations, business, labor and community groups need to own this problem. Our whole community needs to own it. Perhaps we should set goals for our city schools and colleges, identify best practices to get there and combine our funds and see if we can make progress.