Expanding evidence-based solutions across the state

Through all our work at the Gates Foundation, we ground our work in evidence and information—funding programs based on real-world challenges and proven solutions. Here in Washington, we’re exploring statewide policies and programs that help all students attain college and career pathways after high school.  
High-quality advising

High-quality advising

We’re examining the role we can play to ensure all high school students benefit from high-quality college and career advising that helps them design the future they want. 

Why advising? Advising that provides a student with consistent access to a trusted, well-trained adult leads to much higher rates of postsecondary enrollment. For example, among students whose parents had a high school diploma or less, 74% attended college within three years of high school graduation if they had met with a counselor about college in high school, compared to 49% of those who did not meet with a counselor about college. 

We know from research that students from low-income families have the greatest need for high-quality advising, but often have the least access to counselors and advisors. We’re working with partners to ensure Washington state has the policies and programs to connect every student with high-quality advising.

FAFSA completion

FAFSA completion

Right now, despite having one of the most generous state financial aid programs in the country, Washington state ranks 47th in the country in FAFSA completion—the federal form that connects students to financial aid to pursue college, apprenticeships, and career training programs.

Students in Washington state who don't qualify for federal aid can also fill out the WASFA—Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

Why FAFSA/WASFA completion? Seniors who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education, including apprenticeships and career certification programs. The FAFSA or WASFA is a student's only path to access federal and state financial aid, which is income-based and not grade-based. 

We’re working with partners to help more students and their families understand their financial aid options and fill out the FAFSA or WASFA. There is good news for Washington families. Washington state provides the most need-based financial aid in the country.

Dual credit programs

Dual credit programs

There are a lot of programs today that help Washington state students earn college credits while still in high school, such as Running Start and College in the High School. These dual credit programs can reduce college costs while also exposing students to college and career pathways that match their skills and interests. Students who complete these programs are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college.

Why dual credit? High school students in Washington state who participated in a dual credit program were much more likely to enroll in a two- or four-year degree program immediately after graduating (60% vs. 30%). 

Unfortunately, not all students have equitable access to these programs. While 59% of Washington's high school students currently complete a non-CTE (career and technical education) dual credit course, that drops to 56% for Black students, 43% for students from low-income backgrounds, and 32% for Indigenous students. 

We’re exploring ways to ensure students have equitable access to these dual credit programs.

By the numbers

Here are a few stats about postsecondary education in Washington state
Washington state is 47th in the country in FAFSA completion
Around 59% of high schoolers complete a non-CTE dual-credit class.
Just 43% of students from low-income backgrounds complete a non-CTE dual-credit class.

Blog & Resources

February 2024: WA’s college decision date extended

We know this year’s FAFSA rollout has been frustrating for counselors, families, and students – so we’re glad to have a little good news from Washington state to share. The public four-year colleges just announced that they pushed back their college decision date to June 1.

January 2024: Let's talk about FAFSA

In this month’s newsletter, we’re talking about all things FAFSA and financial aid. You probably already know that a new FAFSA form came out at the end of December. The form has fewer questions – and more students will qualify for federal Pell grants. That’s the good news!

9 facts about financial aid in Washington state

You’ve probably heard that the U.S. Department of Education recently rolled out a new FAFSA form that has fewer questions and should be easier for students and families to fill out.
More about our work

Washington State Education Other Areas

Bringing education leaders together
We launched a statewide funders collaborative and an education roundtable to bring students, educators, education leaders, and funders together to work toward common goals and priorities.  
Supporting local partnerships
We launched two grant programs that focus on listening to and partnering with local organizations who know their communities best to understand where we can make the biggest impact.