Credential Achievement After High School Dips in WA

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Washington state saw a dip in the number of people who gained postsecondary credentials during the pandemic.

A new report from the organization Washington Roundtable found that in 2021, the number of high school graduates who received a credential by age 26 was 40% – down from 43% in 2019.

Brian Jeffries, policy director with Washington Roundtable, said there are also some worrying signs going forward when students are asked about college or other postsecondary education training.

“Surveys of students since the pandemic,” said Jeffries, “indicate that they’ve lost some of that confidence in their own preparation and, to some degree, some interest.”

The latest report shows the first dip in postsecondary attainment going back to 2006.

In 2016, Washington Roundtable set a goal of helping 70% of high school students go on to receive credentials by the class of 2030.

The report shows that attainment levels are lower for students of color, who may face higher hurdles to receiving credentials.

One possible reason for the dip is the tight labor market, which means students can make more money out of high school. Jeffries said young people might make $20 an hour, which sounds good.

“But three years from now, five years from now,” said Jeffries, “when they may have their own children or they want to get a better apartment or own their own home, they’re going to need better pay and the path to better pay will necessitate a credential.”

Jeffries said young people should know that schools and postsecondary institutions are prepared to support people after the pandemic disruption.

He added that there are strategies for boosting students’ opportunities after high school, such as partnerships between school districts and colleges.

“High school students who earn some college credit while they’re in high school through what’s called dual enrollment programs,” said Jeffries, “they’re much more likely to go on to some form of education post high school.”

Featured photo: Postsecondary enrollment for high school students from the class of 2021 is at 66%. (EduLife Photos/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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