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 complete postsecondary programs. Together with the local schools, colleges, and organizations that know their communities best, we believe we can help close that gap.
We plan to support locally led collaborations across Washington state that help students continue their education beyond high school and achieve their aspirations. This work builds on our local investments in education over the last 20 years, and extends to all corners of Washington state.
Here’s what we’re doing about it:
Our Washington State team will work 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.
That begins with helping students take the next step in their education journeys after high school—whether that’s enrolling in a trade school, apprenticeship program, or two- or four-year college.
In early 2023, the foundation will issue an open invitation for regional collaborations to join a learning network to explore solutions that help more students pursue their postsecondary aspirations. Applicants who want to join the learning network will need to meet select criteria. For example, the partnership will need to include a K-12 district plus a coordinating organization or college or university. Partners must also express an interest in data-driven learning and a willingness to share lessons learned, as well as demonstrate experience supporting education outcomes for Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, and/or students from low-income backgrounds. Schools and local organizations in the learning network will have the chance to receive technical assistance and grants to fund their programs. Please check back here for updates on this opportunity in early 2023.
- After learning from this early work, we’ll go deeper with 3-5 regions in 2024—providing technical assistance and grants to deepen support for community-identified solutions. Community groups will design these programs, focusing on evidence-based practices that research shows can improve student success.
- At the same time, we will also explore statewide solutions that help all students attain college and career pathways after high school. For example, we will work with partners to help more students and their families fill out the FAFSA or WASFA form—along with advocating at the federal level for continued simplification of the FAFSA process.
- Through all this work, we will bring education funders together to find collective ways for our resources to go further—and we’ll invest in ways that elevate student perspectives and student voice, so communities are following the lead of our young people’s aspirations.
Our long-term vision:
According to data from the Washington Student Achievement Council and Partnership for Learning, nearly 70% of jobs in our state require a post-high school credential, which includes apprenticeships and two- or four-year degrees. 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. We expect to see early progress in the regions we are supporting, and we hope to bring those solutions to other regions across the state over the next 10 years.
- Nearly 90% of Washington’s high schoolers say they want to continue their education after high school.
- Just 61% of Washington students enroll in a postsecondary program right after high school—lower than the national average of 69%. We hope to raise this to 70% by 2035.
- While 70% of jobs in our state require a post-high school credential, only 50% of Washington’s high school graduates complete postsecondary programs, including apprenticeships or two- or four-year degrees.
- Data from the National Student Clearinghouse indicate that postsecondary enrollment decreased 10.7% in Washington between spring 2020 to spring 2022. The national decline was 7.4%.
- On average, 62% of Washington students complete a dual-credit class in high school. That drops to 54% for students from low-income backgrounds, 57% for Latino students, and 43% for Native students.
- The new Washington College Grant program is one of the most generous in the country, making millions of dollars of financial assistance available to students annually.
To learn more about the WA State Strategy, check out these additional resources:
- WA State Strategy fact sheet
- How community input informed our new strategy
- Perspective from Angela Jones, Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Washington State Initiative
- Perspective from Allan Golston, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation U.S. Program
- What We Do