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Closing Gaps in Higher Education

SEA_162_blog photoBy Joyce Yee

Seattle Education Access (SEA) is a college access program that helps low-income, non-traditional students aged 16-29 in King County obtain a post-secondary education. SEA is the only college access organization in Washington state, and one of few in the country, that works with out-of-school young people and specializes in serving those who have experienced homelessness, students of color, foster youth, single parents and immigrants.

Over the past five years, SEA has served over 1,000 students: over half have experienced homelessness, 10% have been in foster care, one-third are single parents, 45% are the first generation in their family to finish a high school diploma or GED, 80% are the first generation in their family to attend college, and one third are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented.

SEA’s Education Advocates work with partner organizations throughout King County including nearly every community college, Open Doors (drop out retrieval), and organizations that provide basic needs to low-income youth. At community colleges, SEA staff often work in adult basic education, GED, and High School 21+ programs. High School 21+ serves young people over 21 who are not eligible to attend Open Doors schools. In these competency-based programs, students can earn high school credits through project-based learning or life experiences, rather than by taking assessment tests.

There is a language, culture and shared understanding, expectation and support that middle and upper-middle class families often have about their children going to college. The children of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts. Only 5% of Americans ages 25-34 whose parents did not finish high school have a college degree.

Students from low-income backgrounds often do not see themselves as potential college students, so SEA Education Advocates help create a college-going culture at partner sites. When  a student sees their peers going to college, they are more likely to think of themselves as potential college students.

In the first phase, the College Prep program, Education Advocates works one-on-one with students to help them set goals for post-secondary education, put together a career and academic plan, and assist them with overcoming barriers. SEA staff have a vast knowledge of the degree, certificate, apprenticeship, technical/professional, and college programs available to students in King County and how they may fit a student’s life circumstances and earn them a living wage upon graduation. SEA teaches students how to navigate the education system, find a high school completion program to fit their needs, obtain financial aid, compete for private scholarships, make a budget, secure housing, register for classes, choose the right campus and degree program, and effectively access campus services. In addition, they provide tutoring, study guides, and funds for testing fees for the GED and college entrance assessment tests. This phase is typically from 6 months to a year, depending on how much support the student needs and where they are in their education pathway.

The second phase, the College Success program, begins the day a student starts classes, and supports students to stay in school and graduate successfully. Supports include tutoring, mentoring, continued career exploration, and program transfer assistance. SEA gives small scholarships to students, mostly under $350, to help them close budget gaps for books, bus passes, child care and first month’s rent. Ideally, Education Advocates’ support of students tapers off after they finish their first year as students learn the skills to navigate the education and financial aid systems themselves. In the past five years, 84% of SEA’s students have graduated from their program or are still enrolled in good academic standing.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

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Op-Ed: Washington’s community, technical colleges can bridge the skills gap

Published in today’s Puget Sound Business Journal

Dr. Amy Morrison Goings is the President of Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Dr. Amy Morrison Goings is the President of Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Chris Korsmo

By Dr. Amy Morrison Goings, President of Lake Washington Institute of Technology, and Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Recently, the League of Education Voters convened over 400 hundred of our neighbors to discuss the challenges around bridging our state’s skills gap. There are many theories being discussed as to why we are facing a lack of prepared talent across manufacturing and information technology sectors, to name a few. We believe Washington State’s chronic underfunding of public higher education, particularly our 34-member community and technical college system, is one of the reasons why we have these ongoing skills gaps.

The mission of the community and technical colleges is directly related to the viability of our state’s workforce. According to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, from 2014-2015 Washington state community and technical colleges produced more than 45,000 college awards, including more than 10,000 associate’s degrees and nearly 300 applied baccalaureate degrees (four year degrees that are directly applicable to a graduate’s career aspirations).

Sixty five percent of all new jobs created in the next few years will require some form of a post-secondary credential. Not just a high school diploma and not necessarily a baccalaureate degree, but somewhere in-between. An associate’s degree, or a certificate backed by industry need, or an apprenticeship. Providing relevant, nimble, and industry connected workforce education is at the core mission and talent of the community and technical colleges.

 Even with the strong mission of our colleges, it’s becoming more difficult to close the skills gap, because community and technical colleges are not constitutionally protected in the same way as K12. Unfortunately, our colleges have not been financially supported through the Great Recession to the present day. In fact, today, community and technical colleges are funded per student at pre-2007 levels. Think about if you paid your employees, vendors and partners at 2007 levels. There would be gaps in service. The community and technical colleges are no different.

Those who work in the community and technical colleges system are advocates for the full funding of K12 and early learning, and work very closely with secondary partners to expose students, at an early age, to the two-year colleges. This partnership creates direct routes for students into career opportunities and earning potential that comes with technical preparation.

With that said, we believe most of us would agree that a “basic education” in the 21st century, must include early learning, a fully funded K12 system, and a post-secondary credential.

Through the support of the League of Education Voters, and the unmatched advocacy for K12, early learning, and higher education, especially the community and technical colleges, we will ensure that all Washingtonians can take full advantage of our growing economy and fully participate in the workforce.

We can’t do it alone. We need your help. Work with us to bridge the skills gap by engaging with a community or technical college. Our colleges have expert faculty who come from, and work in, industry, in addition to teaching. Programs have advisory committees that are comprised of business leaders from all different types of industry from aerospace and engineering, to game design and computer security, to welding and machine technology. Give to college foundations so that students have financial support through scholarships. And most importantly talk to your legislators about the value of our state’s community and technical colleges.

By partnering with advocates like the League of Education Voters, you will help send the message that we must fund K12 and stop the disinvestment in higher education. By doing this, we will all be able to give our state a fighting chance to bridge our growing skills gap.

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Kaysiana and Midheta share their stories

The College Bound Scholarship Program was established by our Legislature eight years ago. College Bound provides scholarships to low-income and foster care students who enroll in middle school, keep their grades up, and stay out of trouble.

More than 212,000 students have signed up, and the program has had a huge impact. Enrollment has shown to positively impact high school academic performance, graduation rates, as well as college going rates and persistence. Of students enrolling in higher education, College Bound students are almost 50 percent more likely to attend a four-year college than low-income students statewide.

We strongly support College Bound and were proud to serve on the state’s College Bound Task Force last year. During the past few years, we have worked with many partners, including the College Success Foundation, Washington State Student Achievement Council, and the Road Map Project, to amplify College Bound’s impact and success and advocate for ongoing state support.

This program changes lives.

We were fortunate to hear the stories of two College Bound students this morning at our annual breakfast. We heard from Kaysiana Hazelwood, a senior at West Seattle High School, and from Midheta Djuderija, a student at the University of Washington.

Below are their incredible stories, told in their own words. (more…)

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This changes everything.

Emma Margraf spoke at today’s State Board of Education meeting and submitted testimony similar to the blog post below.

By Emma Margraf

Last week Jane came in the house with a big envelope in her hand saying, “Mooooommmm….” in a hesitant voice. The envelope was from the college she wants to attend.

I told her that it might just be a mailing, because her application hadn’t been complete for very long. They have a rolling admissions process, so we didn’t know. I watched her open it and read the first few lines of the letter that came in the envelope and then handed it to me looking like she didn’t understand what was happening.

I read the first few lines—they started with, “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”—and when she saw my face, Jane started jumping up and down.

Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since. (more…)

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Becoming Señora Wallace: Paying for grad school

Here’s the breakdown:

$18,000 approx. cost of UW Masters in Teaching Program (including my additional pre-requisites)
– $4,000 approx. aid received from my AmeriCorps Education Award after taxes
– $8,000 TEACH Grant
———
$ 6,000

Wait, that sounds slightly affordable… There has to be a catch, right? Right.

TEACH Grant recipients must agree to teach for four years in a “high-need field” in a designated low-income school within eight years of graduating from their master’s program. If the recipient does not fulfill this four-year service agreement, the grant will be converted into an unsubsidized loan with retroactive interest.

Fortunately for me, foreign language falls into the “high-need field” category, and I can’t ever see myself teaching anywhere but in a low-income school.

Still, accepting this grant is a big deal. The strings attached to the TEACH Grant oblige prospective teachers to a significant time commitment. Plus, what if teaching isn’t a good fit, or what if a teacher is unsuccessful in low-income schools? What if he or she chooses (or is instructed) to teach another subject that’s not considered a designated high-need field (i.e. English, history, music, art)?

Answer: It’ll cost you dearly. The TEACH Grant definitely raises concerns. In these cases, the TEACH “Grant” is no longer a grant.

Estimated monthly repayment amounts of loans from a TEACH Grant:
• $4000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $50 per month
o Repayment will take 8.75 years
o Total repayment would be $5,343.75

• $8000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $92 per month
o Repayment will take 10 years
o Total repayment would be $11,047.20 — it could cost me about $3,050 to change my mind!

This is another costly aspect that prospective teachers need to consider before accepting financial aid that sounds too good to be true. For the government, this offer produces a high return on investment. However, considering the default terms, prospective teachers may not see this grant as an incentive. There must be less binding ways to attract people to this field. Nevertheless, I need to get going on my TEACH Grant entrance counseling. I’m taking the plunge!

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Becoming Señora Wallace: Identity Crisis: Quack goes the…Dawg?

It’s official — I am headed for Huskydom.

How did I decide? First of all, I just couldn’t justify paying $30K for Seattle U (almost twice as much as the UW Masters in Teaching program costs).

More importantly, UW’s new and improved Secondary Teacher Education Program seems like an appropriate fit. These are the highlights and advantages that convinced me to…gulp…become a Husky:

– I can pursue a second endorsement in ESL right off the bat (once again, it’s cost effective!).

– I will take classes through the summer, and I get to work with a high school summer program!

– After four quarters, I will wrap up “traditional coursework” and have the spring (2010) free to hunt for job openings.

– I will have my own classroom by fall 2010! While I won’t earn my master’s until after my first year of teaching, I will have ongoing support during the first year. Plus, the capstone project I will complete during the second year of the program will prepare me to pursue National Board Certification.

Three years ago during my last term at the University of Oregon, if someone told me I’d be headed to UW to become a teacher, I probably would have laughed. Yet, here I am — less than two months from being a full-time student again, and I can’t imagine pursuing any other path.

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