Higher Education Attainment Goal. The Student Achievement Council (Council) provides strategic planning, oversight, advocacy, and administers programs to support students and higher education in the state. The Council is statutorily required to propose educational attainment goals and priorities to meet the state's higher education needs. In 2013, the Council established the following two educational attainment goals for 2023 that the Legislature adopted in 2014:
Washington Fund for Innovation and Quality. The Washington Fund for Innovation and Quality in Higher Education Program is administered by the Council and College Board to award incentive grants to public institutions of higher education, or consortia of institutions to encourage cooperative programs designed to address specific system problems. Strong priority will be given to proposals that involve more than one sector of education and to proposals that show substantive institutional commitment.
The Washington Career and College Pathways Innovation Challenge Program (program) is created and will be administered by the Council. The purpose of the program is to meet statewide attainment goals through the use of local and regional partnerships.
The program must be administered using a competitive grant process and must consider, among other things initiatives that:
The Council must consult with representatives of the public two and four-year institutions, the state's ethnic commissions, the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs, the LGBTQ commission and the women's commission, in the design and administration of the grant program.
The Council must hire staff to support grant oversight and provide technical assistance to grantees. The Council must provide a report to the Legislature annually regarding the grants that were awarded and progress of each project.
The Washington Career and College Pathways Innovation Account replaces the Washington Fund for Innovation and Quality and is established in the custody of the state treasurer. The council may accept public and private gifts, grants, and endowments for the program.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: We have spent many years focusing on reaching the postsecondary attainment goal. The pathways folks take are circuitous for many reasons. It can be difficult for first generation students, low income students, and students from communities of color to access higher education. This bill recognizes that some of the incredible community based organizations have some of the best tools to help these students. The goals of this program align perfectly with the goals of closing the educational opportunity and equity gaps. This bill encourages partnerships with entities whose primary goals are the health and success of Washingtonians and we are proud to be a part of that network. This bill would be a huge boon for the work that we are doing to connect individuals with postsecondary opportunity. The use of trusted messengers who are embedded in communities can be a real asset in reaching people we have had trouble connecting with. This legislation has the potential to address the information gap about financial aid among residents. We are confident this is the right strategy offering innovation that can be scaled statewide. The local matching requirement will make the program hard to implement and be overly burdensome. This will provide the means to reinforce existing efforts and create new innovations. We continue to hear that more resources are necessary to build relationships between communities and higher education. This will deliver change by catering to local needs and allowing us to scale up the most effective strategies. Regional partners can close the information, technical, and support gaps for future students.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: This will help us bring more students into college. We want to see more students come back to school to be business leaders, policy makers, and engineers. Community partners will help engage more people to go to college and fill these jobs. Post secondary graduation rates have increased but enrollment in higher education institutions has decreased. After the pandemic, we are facing an enrollment crisis. Realizing enrollment gains will require targeting investments such as building regional partnerships. Passing this bill is the most important thing you can do to turn around the enrollment crisis.