Everyone should have access to the opportunities they need to design the future they want. That core belief drives the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work around the world and in our home state of Washington, where we work at the local, regional, and state level.
Across the state, we focus on education, which we believe is essential to giving young people control over their own lives today and into the future. Nearly 90% of Washington’s high schoolers say they want to continue their education after high school. But today, only 50% of Washington’s high school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs.
Together with the local schools, colleges, and organizations that know their communities best, we believe we can help close that gap.
Here are five things we’re doing about it:
Our Washington State team works with local and regional partners to help students see a clear path to success in the careers they choose, with an emphasis on young people who face the highest barriers including Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, and students from low-income backgrounds and rural communities.
Here’s how we are investing to help more students take the next step after high school—whether that’s enrolling in a trade school, apprenticeship program, or two- or four-year college.
- Limitless Learning Network. In June 2023, we partnered with Education First to launch Limitless, a Postsecondary Enrollment Learning Network. This new network will connect local K-12 and higher education partners with peers across Washington state—creating opportunities to share information, explore new ideas, and develop best practices together.
- Horizons regional grants. In August 2023, we issued an RFP for regional partnerships to join Horizons, a grant program that will help three regions build on and improve local programs so more high school students have access to relevant, effective support as they move from high school to college and the workforce.
- Supporting statewide solutions. We’re exploring statewide policy solutions and programs that help all students attain college and career pathways after high school. For example, we’re working with partners to help more students and their families understand their financial aid options and fill out the FAFSA or WASFA form.
- Bringing education leaders together. In conversations we had with nearly 200 community members in 2022, many pointed to our ability to bring partners together as a unique benefit the foundation offers. That’s why we’re partnering with The Scholar First, who will work with our team to convene education leaders across the state to discuss common education goals and priorities on a consistent basis.
- Bringing education funders together. We’re also working to bring education funders together to find collective ways for our resources to go further.
Through all our work, we’re working to elevate student perspectives and student voice, so communities are following the lead of our young people’s aspirations.
Our long-term vision:
By 2035, our goal is to help 70% of Washington’s students enroll in a postsecondary program after high school—the first step in preparing local students for the good-paying jobs in our state.
- Nearly 90% of Washington’s high schoolers say they want to continue their education after high school.
- Just 50% of Washington students enroll in a postsecondary program right after high school—lower than the national average of 63%.
- Washington state is 49th in the country in FAFSA completion.
- 70% of jobs in our state require a post-high school credential.
- On average, 59% of Washington students complete a non-CTE dual-credit class in high school. That drops to 56% for Black students, 43% for students from low-income backgrounds, and 32% for Indigenous students.