Office Hours

Remembering Dr. Elson Floyd

Posted on June 24, 2015

Washington State University President Elson Floyd was a champion for access and opportunity in higher education. Dr. Floyd was also a part of the Washington Student Achievement Council’s organizational history, serving as the Executive Director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board from 1993 to 1995.

His relentless belief that education was an essential investment in human potential stands as a model for all of us in Washington. He believed strongly that demographics were not a student’s destiny.  

Education was the great equalizer for Dr. Floyd, and he committed his life to ensuring all students were provided the opportunity achieve their potential in postsecondary education. He was a giant in the field of higher education in Washington. His influence was profound. His voice will be missed.

Visit the WSU tribute page and The Seattle Times to learn more about Dr. Floyd and his legacy.


Legislative Update

Posted on April 17, 2015

Legislation to expand dual-credit opportunities passed the Senate with a few changes. The floor striker to E2SHB 1546 specifies prioritization criteria for funds with an eye to ensuring access for students in rural schools. The bill has now passed both chambers and awaits House concurrence. For status information about other postsecondary education bills, see our weekly bill tracker.

Maud Daudon’s gubernatorial appointment to the Washington Student Achievement Council was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday April 14. Senators Dammeier, Kohl-Welles, and Frockt praised Daudon for her leadership, broad professional experience, and her commitment to ensuring that our higher education system is viable, affordable, and accessible. Maud Daudon chairs the Council and is president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. 

The Governor, House, and Senate have all released their budgets. If you’re wondering how they compare on postsecondary education, you might be interested in our budget comparison.  


Friday High Five

Posted on April 10, 2015 







Smarter Balanced testing is under way. Amidst controversy, state officials ask educators, families, and students to focus on the facts.








The House and Senate are in a legislative standoff over the budget. Key issues include the class size initiative and how to fund tuition cuts.








The Washington State Office of the Attorney General (ATG) announced its lawsuit against StudentLoanProcessing.US and signed a letter, along with eight other states, urging the U.S. Department of Education to relieve the debt burden of students who attended Corinthian Colleges.








Senator Patty Murray is one of the authors of a bipartisan proposal to fix the “No Child Left Behind Act” by reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bipartisan bill would help Washington State regain control over nearly $40 million of federal funding as well as flexibility over judging school performance.








The Lumina Foundation released their annual report, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education. The report includes data describing degree attainment at the national, state, and county levels. According to 2013 Census figures, there was a slight increase in the number of working-age Washingtonians with a two- or four-year degree.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.


Friday High Five

Posted on April 3, 2015 







The Washington State House and Senate have released their budgets. In different ways, both plans address postsecondary education affordability.








Council member Jeff Charbonneau calls for equal access to dual credit, and the power of dual credit for all is on display at Rainier Beach High School.








Record numbers of students—especially College Bound Scholarship students—apply to public universities in Washington.








According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), Washington is one of three states that give college grads the best odds of landing a job.








In case you missed it: Blog posts on supporting students with disabilities as they transition from K-12 to postsecondary education and our new dual-credit lookup tool.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

All Means All

Posted on April 1, 2015

Everyone benefits from postsecondary education. For students, a postsecondary credential is a ticket to higher earnings and improved quality of life. For society, higher rates of postsecondary attainment decrease reliance on state services and increase the competitiveness of our workforce. 

Given the value of postsecondary education, we need to ensure all students have access to these opportunities. We can improve access by strengthening the transition from K-12 to higher education. 

Unfortunately, students who receive special education services transition less successfully to postsecondary education than their peers. High school graduates who receive special education services enroll in postsecondary education at less than half the rate of the total student population.  

For K-12 students with disabilities, the transition from high school to postsecondary education is rife with barriers. Some of these barriers exist because of inadequate transition planning and skill development in high school. Other barriers exist because of structural differences between K-12 and postsecondary education. Unlike the K-12 the system, postsecondary institutions are not subject to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This means that students face different documentation requirements and receive different academic accommodations in postsecondary education. 

We’re working with our partners and stakeholders to support practitioners and policymakers in their work to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Through Washington State GEAR UP, we offer resources to high school practitioners. We also staff the state’s Disability Task Force, which makes recommendations to improve transitions to postsecondary education for students with disabilities. 

Washington State GEAR UP recently published a resource guide for people who work with high school students with disabilities. In addition to a list of state and national resources, this publication identifies common accommodations in postsecondary institutions for a variety of different disability categories, as well as transition timelines and checklists for 9th – 12th grades. 

The 24-member Disability Task Force is comprised of representatives from K-12 and postsecondary education, citizen groups, as well as government and non-government organizations. In its 2014 report to the Legislature, the task force identified the structural barriers between K-12 and postsecondary education and made seven recommendations to improve transitions for students with disabilities. 



New Dual-Credit Lookup Tool for Students taking AP, IB, Cambridge Tests

Posted on March 25, 2015

The Washington Student Achievement Council has developed a dual-credit lookup tool to help students find out if and how much college credit they may get for their dual-credit exam scores at public and private independent colleges in Washington. Just select the type of exam—Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Cambridge International—pick the exam subject, enter the student’s score, and select up to five colleges. 

The tool was created because it can be difficult for students to see how their exam scores will be interpreted at different colleges. Washington schools offer a variety of options for students to earn college credit during high school. Among these are credit by exam programs—AP, IB, and Cambridge International. Students receive a different type and number of credits depending on their score and what institution they attend. 

The dual-credit lookup tool makes the process of translating exam scores into college credit more transparent for students and families. They can see how each college awards credit for each exam and are provided with a link to the school’s website for further information. 

Dual credit is a key strategy to increase educational attainment for students and our state. Students who participate in dual credit are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college, and complete a degree or certificate.


Friday High Five

Posted on March 13, 2015 







Amidst calls to make postsecondary education affordable, the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to retake tuition-setting power. The State Senate passed a bill that links tuition to the average wage.








Legislation allowing WSU to establish a medical school in Spokane passed both the House and the Senate.








The White House released a Student Aid Bill of Rights as the President directs federal agencies to do more to help borrowers. According to the state data included in the release, there are 813,000 borrowers in Washington who have an estimated total outstanding balance of $20.8 billion in student loans.








New reports: The Pell Institute released its 45-year trend report, Indicators of Education Equity in the United States. The Chronicle released its Trends Report, which describes ten key shifts in higher education.








Washington is one of a handful of states using the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments to support students as they transition from K-12 to college.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Friday High Five

Posted on February 20, 2015 







Education proposals in the spotlight: freezing and cutting tuition, removing barriers to dual credit programs, and returning the class size initiative to voters.








House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means consider bills that would allow WSU to establish a medical school.








The clock is ticking on funding K-12 education.








New data: earnings for WA graduates employed in state, characteristics of early high school dropouts.








The Puget Sound Business Journal held an education roundtable discussion in January. A recently released series of articles covers the educational pipeline, need for reinvestment in postsecondary education, and how business can improve education.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Friday High Five

Posted on February 6, 2015 







News media coverage of education in the Legislature includes bills on WSU/UW medical schools, computer science, testing and high school graduation, and splitting Seattle into two school districts.








President Obama submitted his annual budget request to Congress.








President Michael Young is leaving the University of Washington to be president of Texas A&M.








Washington is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) for Common Core testing. What other tests will states administer this spring?








Brookings released a new report, “America’s Advanced Industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter.”





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

2015 Legislative Session: Week Two Highlight - Higher Education Affordability 

Posted on January 29, 2015

On January 21, the House Higher Education Committee held a work session on college affordability. Rachelle Sharpe (WSAC) presented on the State Need Grant and the College Bound Scholarship program. The SNG presentation outlined the changes in program policy over time. Sharpe noted that the SNG is a critical strategy for meeting the state’s education attainment goals. The committee reviewed the Interactive Affordability Model, developed jointly by UW Professor Jim Fridely in partnership with WSAC. The model is designed to show the relationship between state funding, tuition policy, and the impact on student debt. Representatives of the state’s students’ association presented on the impact of tuition on affordability and emphasized that increasing hours of work to afford college can negatively impact student success.

Committee meeting materials can be found online.

Our comprehensive review of the second week of session is also available.


Friday High Five

Posted on January 23, 2015







Coverage of postsecondary education in week 2 of the 2015 Legislative Session centered on the UW and WSU medical school proposals.








President Obama’s free community college proposal continues to generate reactions and analyses.








These articles look at state spending on higher education from a national perspective.








The Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board posted their 2015 Workforce Training Results Report. The report tracks the results and taxpayer return on investment for 12 of the state’s largest workforce programs.








#ReachHigher and College Goal Washington are putting the focus on FAFSA completion, which is a key strategy to increase educational attainment. This story and legislative news are available on our blog, Office Hours.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.


#ReachHigher, College Goal Washington put FAFSA completion front and center

Posted on January 23, 2015

In November, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the FAFSA Completion Challenge, calling high schools to create and submit a three to five minute video highlighting their work to promote student completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Contestants are encouraged to post their videos on social media using the hashtag #ReachHigher. 

The FAFSA can be a barrier to low and middle-income families in the financial aid application process.  A 2013 article in the Journal of Student Financial Aid states, “completing the FAFSA requires a considerable amount of effort and social capital, personal networks that students can draw upon to gain information and resources.” The authors go on to identify barriers students face when filing the FAFSA, including “…questions about family financial status that the student may be ill-equipped to answer…assumptions of parental support, [and]…a general lack of knowledge about available aid.”

The First Lady’s “Reach Higher” initiative puts FAFSA completion in the national spotlight, and Washington State is keeping pace. In January and February 2015, over 75 high schools, colleges and universities will be hosting College Goal Washington events to help people apply for financial aid. 

College Goal Washington helps people overcome some of those barriers. College Goal is a free on-site program that helps students and families complete the FAFSA and the WASFA, the Washington Application for State Financial Aid. The FAFSA is required for students to access federal financial aid and some sources of state aid, such as the College Bound Scholarship. The WASFA exists for students who meet Washington residency requirements, want to be considered for State Need Grant, and who are unable to file a FAFSA due to immigration status.  

College Goal is also part of the 12th Year Campaign, a two-part initiative designed to help students apply for college and financial aid. At College Goal events, families can connect with trained volunteers and financial aid experts from local colleges and universities. Not only do they receive assistance completing their FAFSA or WASFA, but they can also ask financial aid staff specific questions about their family situation.

Both Denver and Chicago Public Schools data have shown that up to 90% of students who completed a FAFSA enrolled in postsecondary institutions within 12 month of graduating from high school. By helping students and families on their financial aid applications, College Goal Washington contributes to the Washington Student Achievement Council’s postsecondary education attainment goal: By 2023, at least 70 percent of Washington adults—ages 25 to 44—will have a postsecondary credential. 


Feeney, M., & Heroff, J. (n.d.). Barriers to Need-Based Financial Aid: Predictors of Timely FAFSA Completion Among Low-Income Students. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 43(2), 65-85. Retrieved December 12, 2014 from


Senate Higher Education Committee Meeting 

Posted on January 23, 2015

On January 20, we presented our 2014 Strategic Action Plan and an update on State Need Grant to the Senate Higher Education Committee. Materials are available on the electronic bill book


2015 Legislative Session Week 1: Postsecondary overview, budget, dual credit 

Posted on January 20, 2015

On January 13, the House Higher Education Committee began a two-part work session on an overview of postsecondary education that concluded on January 14. Members heard presentations from a large number of postsecondary education partners, including Council Vice Chair Karen Lee. 

The Senate Higher Education Committee’s work session took place on January 15. Members heard presentations on state and postsecondary budget updates and requests. 

Also on January 15, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held public hearings on two dual-credit bills. Senate staff prepared a side-by-side comparison of the two bills. 

  • SB 5080—Concerning dual-credit options (Dammeier, Rolfes, Fain, Frockt, Litzow, McAuliffe).  
  • SB 5086—Concerning dual-credit opportunities provided by Washington State’s public institutions of higher education (Litzow, McAuliffe, Kohl-Welles, requested by Office of Financial Management). 

Public hearings were held on the Governor’s budget bill in House Appropriations (HB 1106) and in Senate Ways and Means (SB 5077). The Senate Ways and Means Committee also held a public hearing on SB 5063—Prioritizing state revenue growth for education.  

For more details from last week, read our full legislative update

To stay current on the meetings we’re following this week, check our Week 2 Schedule.


Friday High Five

Posted on January 16, 2015 







The first week of legislative session was abuzz with education funding and policy, and the pressure is on. Now speculation has begun about whether there could be a “McCleary” case for higher education.








President Obama proposes making community college free for students who attend at least part-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher, and who make steady progress toward completing their program. The proposal is receiving mixed reactions.








A controversial study of Washington’s Student Achievement Initiative found that state performance funding for community and technical colleges isn’t having the intended effect on student retention and completion of associate degrees. But the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges disagrees, citing gains in associate-degree production since 2012 and the value of short-term “stackable” degrees.








Bellevue College and Washington State University are exploring ways they can partner to enhance opportunities for students. The Evergreen State College announces four finalists in its search for a president.








We’re following and sharing legislative developments this session. Look for video clips and a recap of last week’s highlights on our blog. For more info, visit our legislative page and click on the 2015 tab.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.


House Higher Education Committee Meeting

Posted on January 13, 2015 

Meeting materials available here

2015 Legislative Session Begins

Posted on January 9, 2015 

The regular session of the Washington State Legislature commences on January 12 and is scheduled to end on April 26. 

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) has been invited to present before the House Higher Education Committee on January 13 at 8:00 a.m. The Council will discuss the Strategic Action Plan, which outlines funding and policy recommendations to help meet the state’s educational attainment goals. The Strategic Action Plan will be introduced to the Senate Higher Education Committee on January 20 at 1:30 p.m. Note that the committee hearing schedules related to WSAC issues are available online

Work related to the 2015 session began in earnest in November and December with legislative assembly days. WSAC members and staff were once again engaged in the work. A few highlights of note:

On a November 20 meeting of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Rachelle Sharpe, WSAC Senior Director of Student Financial Assistance and Support Services, presented with UW Professor Jim Fridley on the Affordability Framework. WSAC collaborated with Dr Fridley to develop this interactive model. The model should improve understanding of the impact of various funding, tuition, and financial aid policies. Council member Paul Francis, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Council of Presidents, provided perspective on institutional activities that help students understand debt, including counseling, developing financial literacy skills, and web-based resources.

On a December 5 meeting of the House Higher Education Committee, Dr. Gene Sharratt, WSAC Executive Director, presented the 2014 Strategic Action Plan, noting that implementation will be necessary to achieve the state’s higher education goals. Council member Paul Francis joined liaisons from public baccalaureate institutions to present their priorities for the 2015 legislative session. 

Friday High Five

Posted on December 19, 2014 







Governor Inslee launched the week-long release of his budget with education on Monday. The revenue plan was released Thursday.








Thirsty for more budget information? The Office of Financial Management (OFM) has the details of the Governor’s budget, and lets you compare Governor Inslee’s budget to Agency Request Budget Proposals.








The U.S. Department of Education released its college-ratings framework today. The department is asking for feedback, and comments can be submitted online.








What kind of information and outreach helps which students the most? For students comparing colleges, geography and proximity to a safety net play an important role. And FAFSA text message reminders work better for some students than others.








The College Bound Scholarship Workgroup released its final report this week.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.


Friday High Five

Posted on December 12, 2014 







2015 legislative committee leaders have been announced for both the House and Senate. Governor Inslee will unveil his proposed two-year budget next week.








State universities call for reinvestment to bolster student access and success, and the Everett Herald published an editorial supporting investment recommendations from The Boston Consulting Group’s report, “Opportunity For All: Investing in Washington State’s STEM Education Pipeline.”








A new Brookings study finds that students enrolled in college lack awareness and understanding of how much their education costs, how much they’re paying now, and how much debt they’ll owe later. Speaking of student debt, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed an injunction against one company and permanently banned another for “tricking borrowers” into paying fees for free federal loan programs.








New study findings:

Community college degrees in the right fields can lead to significant income increases. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether people get a college degree earlier or later in life–it still pays off.








Good news:

Spokane’s high school graduation rates are on the rise, at 83 percent. Leaders cite collaboration and the Early Warning System.

Washington Student Achievement Council member Jeff Charbonneau is on the short list for the Global Teacher Prize.

ICYMI, seven Washington colleges and universities were represented at the White House summit on college access last week.





A weekly news curation brought to you by the Washington Student Achievement Council.


October meeting update: Council commits to recommendations for student support and affordability 

Posted on October 15, 2014 

At its meeting on October 8, the Council approved seven recommendations comprising the draft 2014 Strategic Action Plan. These recommendations share the common goals of increasing student access and success in postsecondary institutions that are affordable, predictably funded, and aligned with K-12 education as well as workforce needs. 

The first two recommendations support maintaining the level of funding needed to:

  1. Fulfill increasing caseload requirements for the College Bound Scholarship program. 
  2. Protect the state’s investment in public two- and four-year institutions. 

The Council also approved five policy recommendations: 

  1. Enhance service in State Need Grant. 
  2. Expand the reach of dual-credit opportunities. 
  3. Support underrepresented students. 
  4. Reinvest in State Work Study. 
  5. Develop an affordability framework. 

Faculty and staff from several institutions shared appreciation for the Council’s work developing draft dual-credit legislation associated with the fourth policy recommendation. Council Chair Maud Daudon also commended institutions for the recent agreement to use Smarter Balanced test scores in course-placement decisions

The Council will vote to adopt the 2014 Strategic Action Plan at its November meeting. 

Written by Emily Persky


GET Program returns to fully-funded status

Posted on October 13, 2014 

State Actuary, Matt Smith, recently announced that the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program’s funded status is 106 percent and is expected to meet all of its financial obligations for current enrollees. 

Since 1999, Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program has paid more than a half billion dollars in higher education expenses on behalf of more than 37,000 students. The GET program now manages more than 157,000 college savings accounts valued at close to $3 billion. 

The financial health of the program has definitely improved over the past few years. Last year, the program enhanced its solvency report card grade from a “B” to an “A” rating and this year – seven years earlier than expected – the program surpassed its 2021 projected funded status. The positive change in the program’s funded status is due primarily to strong investment returns and the fact that tuition did not increase at Washington’s state’s universities for the second straight year.

While there is no denying that the cost of a college education has increased dramatically over the past two decades, the citizens of Washington State continue to display their growing value of a college degree by using GET to save more of their hard-earned dollars for their children’s future higher education expenses. 

Flat tuition is a reprieve for Washington families who experienced double-digit tuition growth from 2009 to 2013. Over the past 10 years, tuition has increased an average of 8.6 percent per year, which has contributed to the growth in student debt that is now valued at more than $1.2 trillion nationally. 

Ultimately, our goal as an organization is to switch the personal finance of higher education from a debt-driven model to a savings-driven model, so that when a student completes their degree, they have the financial freedom to pursue their dreams and take an active role in contributing to our state’s economy and communities. 

We strive to accomplish this goal every day by offering Washington families incentives, tools, and resources to help them save, make wise investment decisions, and to make it as easy as possible to make regular contributions to their accounts. By providing these resources to families, their children will be better positioned to continue to grow and prosper in their academic pursuits. 

There is no doubt that education is the key to unlocking the door to opportunity. Throughout the past several years, new research continues to provide supportive evidence that a college degree not only increases the economic earning power of both individuals and our state economy, but it’s also proven to contribute to improved health and other social benefits such as increased homeownership, voting rates, and community volunteerism.  

For more information, read the Actuary Report

Written by Betty Lochner, GET Program Director


College Bound Scholarship cohort largest ever 

Posted on October 6, 2014 

Over 32,000 eighth graders signed up for the College Bound Scholarship (CBS) program by the June 30 deadline. The graduating class of 2018 includes the largest CBS cohort since students began signing up for the scholarship in 2007, even though the number of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch dropped slightly from last year. 


Image Credit: Alison Eldridge

The CBS program has come a long way since it began in 2007, growing both in size of cohorts and the rate of eligible students participating in the program. In 2008, 57 percent of eligible students signed up for the scholarship. Fast forward to 2014, and 89 percent of eligible students signed up to receive the scholarship when they graduate from high school. 

These increases are the result of strong outreach efforts by school districts and partnering organizations. Notably, 69 school districts saw 100 percent of their eligible students sign up for the scholarship. 

The CBS program provides financial assistance to low-income students who want to achieve the dream of a college education. Students sign up in middle school, no later than June 30 of their 8th grade year, to receive an early commitment of state funding. The scholarship, in combination with other state aid, covers tuition (at public college rates).

Written by Emily Persky