The state’s college education paradox

Paradox in graduation rates for Washington state.



Mackenzie Hendricks


Washington is ranked No. 14 out of the 50 states in the number of adults who have earned college degrees. Yet, this study in 2008 also showed Washington state was ranked 46 out of the 50 states in college enrollment immediately after high school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 49 percent of high school seniors in the state don’t continue on to college while the national average is 37 percent. However, Washington is near the top in degrees earned despite the low percentage of post-secondary enrollment.

As a result, Washington is in a paradox. In 2007, Washington had the highest per capita rate in the nation of 22- to 39-year-olds with college degrees moving into the state.

Meaning more people with college degrees are moving to Washington because of job opportunities. Washington provides many opportunities for graduate students, but a limited amount of Washington students complete the necessary education.

The reasons for this are unclear. Some blame below average state requirements that don’t measure up to other state’s standards as the cause. Others believe the problem is funding, which has fallen due to the Great Recession.

However, when Washington students do attend college, they excel. The average graduation rate at Washington four-year schools is 69 percent, one of the highest in the nation.

Washington community colleges are also above the average in graduation rates. However, community colleges are much lower than four-year schools in completion rates.

More than half of all college-bound students attend a two-year school, which is a suggested reason for Washington’s shortcomings in college degree rankings.

“It’s an uncomfortable conversation—it seems like it’s anti-community college,” Washington state Rep. Reuven Carlye said in a The New York Times article. “But because we have grown accustomed to a strong two-year system, we have grown lazy in our sense of obligation to push toward four-year as a central piece of our higher-education strategy.”

A State Board of Community and Technical Colleges study in 2007 found that 74 percent of students who entered a community or technical college directly from high school intended to transfer to a four-year school. Of those students, 41 percent transferred or completed associate degrees within four years.

Many students are lost in the transition from community college to a university. According to Pierce College statistics, 50 percent of students on all three campuses plan to transfer.

Only 28 percent are likely to transfer or complete their associates degree in four years if they follow the same trend as other community colleges statewide.

To end Washington’s education paradox, one step is to increase the amount of students who complete community college and continue on to other institutions. As Washington’s post-secondary students consist of numerous community college students, graduation rates in universities would consequentially increase with an influx of transfer students.

Pierce College students can take the initiative now by not ending their education with their associate’s degree. This would aid in ending the idea that Washington is only good for jobs and not for forming upcoming leaders.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

The state’s college education paradox

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