It is central to Washington’s economic and education policies, as it is in most states: Increase the number of residents with college degrees and certificates, and you make them more prosperous and the state more competitive.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported that September unemployment nationally was 10.3 percent. But that dropped to 6 percent for those with some college or an associate degree and 3.7 percent for those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
But paying for access to higher education — as well as increasing the number of slots — has become a challenge that was made tougher by the Great Recession. Washington followed the easy path of reducing tax support and increasing reliance on tuition, something that helped balance the budget but makes it tougher for some to afford college.