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Oct. 6—Washington is making progress on becoming the No. 1 state in education nationally but before it can achieve this, the state must lead the country in educational access and dual credit opportunities.
Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal spoke at a news conference Wednesday on the importance of giving equitable access to dual credit statewide. His proposal would invest about $100 million in education, giving high school students college credit opportunities with no cost to families.
"Unfortunately, we're leaving students behind because of cost," Reykdal said. "It isn't the only solution, there's preparation, there's guidance and there's all of the additional work. The cost is the biggest barrier."
According to Reykdal, around 200,000 K-12 students participate in some form of dual credit. Dual credits are courses students take while in high school to earn both high school and college credits. These courses provide a variety of programs, including CTE Dual Credit; Running Start, a program where students can attend classes on a local college campus; professional technical programs; and Advanced Placement, which are tests students may take to receive college credit, Reykdal said. Dual credit is there for students who want to work in apprenticeships and who want to work and go straight to work, Reykdal said.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has a goal to get at least 70% of working adult populations to a post-secondary credential, according to Reykdal. He added it can be baccalaureate degrees, apprenticeships or certifications, but the goal is to educate more people.
According to Scott Friedman, associate director of the Association of Washington School Principals, 65% of U.S. jobs require a higher education degree and the rate of job creation in Washington is double the national rate, with an estimated 373,000 new jobs over the next few years. He added Washington ranks 15th in education nationally, and around 43.5% of residents hold a post-secondary degree.
"This is really at the heart of our economic success," Reykdal said. "Which is why we're so passionate about it."
By investing in dual credit, Reykdal and Friedman believe it will result in big benefits. Reykdal said dual credit increases high school graduation and college retention rates. He added even if a student is taking one or two college-level courses, their likelihood of attending and staying in college increases.
While waived fees benefits families enormously, Reykdal said the investment is even bigger for the legislature. The legislature will save money when they pay for this work while students are in high school because by the time students earn their degree and graduate, they will work and generate more resources.
Reykdal said if a dual credit program is housed in a high school with minimized transportation, fees and costs, it results in the best equity outcomes for participants. Looking at running start, Friedman said location limits access to academic support, and many high-poverty high schools are within 20 miles of a college campus, disadvantaging subgroups of students. Reykdal said the challenge is that at different locations, programs see the biggest racial gaps. Friedman said dual credit is one way to build confidence in kids, increase access opportunity and provide equitable outcomes for kids in all high schools.
The office will start by requesting around $100 million from the legislature over a biennium, requesting about $50 million a year between 2023-2025, Reykdal said. According to the presentation provided at the meeting, eliminating all student fees and lowering the pre-credit maximum cost would amount to $15.75 million annually and elevating CTE Dual Credit, and dedicating funding to support administration and alignment costs would amount to around $4 million a year. Funding cost of students to earn industry-recognized credentials on the state-approved list costs $8.96 million per year, eliminating Running Start student fees amounts to $8.24 million annually and covering all student exam fees in Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International costs $8.24 million, stated in the presentation. The organization is also considering different policies like transferability of credits, guaranteed acceleration of degree attainment and ensuring no additional fees are added for students and families, added in the presentation.
"This is our moment, Washington state," Reykdal said. "This is what we can do, and we can take it to our career and tech ed programs."
To learn more about the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, or their proposed policy, visit their website at k12.wa.us.
Pearce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Emily_A_Pearce.