The state of Seattle and Washington have a lot to say when it comes to the innovation economy, including disproportionate employment in technology and investment in R&D compared to many other states.
In that context, another statistic is so shocking that Laura Ruderman, CEO of the Technology Alliance, made it a point to say it twice at the organization’s annual State of Technology Luncheon on Wednesday in Seattle — recognizing that it may take a while. take to get through to you. with the audience of tech leaders.
“We want to take a data-driven deep dive into why Washington state is consistently at the bottom of the states that send their kids to college, in or out of the state,” Ruderman said, describing the Tech Alliance’s upcoming goals. †
The need for homegrown graduates is a major problem for talent-hungry technology companies. The statistic clearly surprised some in the audience, including keynote speaker Yoko Miyashita, CEO of cannabis information company Leafly, who brought it up during her onstage conversation with K&L Gates’ Pallavi Mehta Wahi.
“That’s just shocking, and that should really shock us,” Miyashita said.
So what exactly is the statistic? We followed to find out more.
Ruderman pointed us to sources including the Tech Alliance’s Benchmarking Reports, the 2021 release of which offers this summary of data from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems: “53% of Washington students go straight from high school to the university, ranking us 46th in the nation and ahead of only Utah in our cohort states.Almost 80% of students in Massachusetts go straight to college.”
It’s not a new issue. “Education experts say there’s no reason Washington has stumbled upon letting kids go to college,” the Seattle Times reported nearly a decade ago. “It’s the sum of a variety of problems that together have created a weak university culture.”
The Puget Sound Indexer website published a series of stories on the matter, including this 2020 piece, “Why Don’t More Washington Kids Go to College?”
The issue was also raised during a panel discussion at the event. Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore School District, northeast of Seattle, said Washington state is 48th among all states in sending traditionally underrepresented students into postsecondary education.
“I think we should stop seeing this as a student issue. This is a system issue; there’s nothing wrong with our students,” Reid said to applause. “Unless we can disrupt the system in significant ways, we will continue to put good people in the system who cannot thrive or have robust results.”
Ruderman said the Tech Alliance, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, plans to release an updated economic impact report next month, comparing the current state of the innovation economy with the 1997 version of the report.