Washington State

Everyone should have access to the opportunities they need to design the future they want. That core belief drives the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work around the world and in our home state of Washington, where we work at the local, regional, and state level.

Across Washington state, we focus on education, which we believe is essential to giving young people control over their own lives today and into the future. Nearly 90 percent of Washington’s high schoolers say they want to continue their education after high school. But only 50 percent of Washington’s high school graduates today complete postsecondary programs. Together with the local schools, colleges, and organizations that know their communities best, we believe we can help close that gap.

low-res illustration of two children in a classroom with a teacher pointing at material on the balckboard

Supporting Washington state students' postsecondary and career aspirations

Our Washington State team works with local and regional partners to help students see a clear path to success in the careers they choose, with an emphasis on young people who face the highest barriers, including Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, students from low-income backgrounds and rural communities. That begins with helping students take the next step after high school—whether that’s enrolling in a trade school, apprenticeship program, or two- or four-year college.

Supporting regional collaborations

In early 2023, the foundation will issue an open invitation for regional collaborations in Washington state to join a “learning network” to explore solutions that help more students pursue their postsecondary aspirations. Local organizations that are part of a regional collaboration will have the chance to receive funding for their programs, along with technical assistance to enhance their efforts. While the invitation will be open to all in Washington state, to join the learning network, partners will need to meet select criteria. The regional collaboration will need to include a K-12 district plus a coordinating organization or college. Partners must also express an interest in data-driven learning and a willingness to share lessons learned, as well as demonstrate experience supporting education outcomes for Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, and/or students from low-income backgrounds. We’ll go deeper with 3-5 regions in 2024—providing additional technical assistance and grants to deepen support for community-identified solutions. Community groups will design these programs, focusing on evidence-based practices that research shows can improve student success. We will also help these regions build their own capacity to access and share quality data and information about how local students are doing now, what barriers they face, and what programs help them advance on their education pathway and toward economic opportunity. 

Investing in statewide solutions

We will also explore statewide solutions that help all students attain college and career pathways after high school. For example, in 2021, compared to 61% of students nationally, only 46% of students in Washington state completed the FAFSA, a form completed by current and prospective college students in the U.S. to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

We will work with partners to help more Washington state students and their families fill out the FAFSA and access financial aid—along with advocating at the federal level for continued simplification of the FAFSA process.

Continuing to listen to students

Through all this work, we will bring public and private education funders in Washington state together to find collective ways for our resources to go further—and we’ll invest in research and other programs that elevate student perspectives and student voice, so communities are following the lead of our young people’s aspirations.

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