Most students say they want to go to college, but only a third earn a degree

SEATTLE—Although 89 percent of students in South King County aspire to earn at least a two-year postsecondary degree, only 29 percent of the region’s students have earned a two- or four-year college degree by their mid-twenties, according to the Road Map Project’s latest annual Results Report, which shows the state of education in South King County and South Seattle.

The Road Map Project’s goal is for 70 percent of the region’s students to earn a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030, and is based on education experience in demand by the local economy. This year’s report features the results of a student survey on college aspirations: Even though an overwhelming majority of the region’s high schoolers say they understand the importance of college and want to enroll, only about half say they are equipped with a step-by-step plan to get there.

The region’s high schools are generally under-resourced when it comes to college and career staffing. Most have only one college and career specialist/counselor—a disconcerting fact when considering that among those surveyed, students of color rely more on school staff to navigate the college-going process than white students, who lean more on their parents.

New regional efforts are a good step toward narrowing opportunity gaps for our region’s children and youth. The newly announced Seattle’s Promise program will make two years of community college free for the city’s high schoolers, and the Puget Sound Coalition for College and Career Readiness—a group of local superintendents and college presidents—is planning to propose a similar initiative for the broader region.

“A college degree is critical to access living wage jobs, and it’s our collective responsibility to make it possible for our youth to enroll, persist, and earn a degree,” said Kevin McCarthy, president of Renton Technical College and a coalition member. “By reducing worries about costs, and increasing support in getting to college and persisting once there, our region will realize significant benefits.”

The Results Report also highlights new investments by King County’s Best Starts for Kids that will improve access to high-quality out-of-school time programming. Of the 35 new grants, 28 will go to the Road Map Project region to help organizations better serve low-income youth and youth of color. The Somali Youth & Family Club, which has provided programming at Creston Point Apartments in Skyway for a decade, is a grantee.

“For most of those years, funding was scarce and we struggled to support our students,” said Somali Youth & Family Club executive director Hamdi Abdulle. “The new Best Starts for Kids funding is based on a noble vision that is vital to youth and communities like Skyway. This initiative will shape and change the future of our young people of color. We know it takes a village to raise a child, and the support we’ve received from BSK and other organizations is a true response to this belief.”

Other notable content from the 2017 Results Report include:

The student population in the Road Map region is exceptionally diverse, but the teacher workforce is not. Youth of color make up 71 percent of K-12 students; in contrast, 81 percent of their teachers are white.

Student homelessness has more than doubled since the Road Map Project began in 2010. About 5,000 students are homeless in the Road Map region, with the biggest relative increases happening in South Seattle and Tukwila.

Expulsion and suspension rates are dropping, but Black students are still more likely to receive exclusionary discipline than their white peers. A Community Center for Education Results brief also released today shows that how the state collects and codes disciplinary incidents is creating barriers to understanding what’s happening in schools:

The region has greatly expanded opportunities for youth who are disconnected from school and work. Options for young people in King County to reengage in secondary, postsecondary and employment pathways have expanded significantly over the past three years. In 2013-14, there were only three programs serving 800 students. In 2016-17, there were 16 programs serving 2,929 students, with 533 earning a credential.

High school students are performing well in many areas of college readiness. More students are applying for financial aid, taking college-level courses (such as AP and IB), and are graduating high school within four years. However, only 61 percent have met the state’s College Academic Distribution Requirements, the courses students must take in order to apply to a four-year college in Washington.

To read the full report, visit For a complete view of education data in the Road Map Project region, including at the school and district level, and by student demographics, visit

Posted in: College and Career Readiness , College and Career Success , Data and Research , Early Learning & Elementary Success , English Language Learners , Expanded Learning Opportunities , Family Engagement , Opportunity Youth , Social Emotional Learning

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