The Issue

Our region is known for its “knowledge-based economy” and Washington state ranks fourth in the country in technology-based corporations. The greater Seattle region has a very strong economy and a well-educated workforce — according to The Brookings Institution it ranks 4th in the world in terms of per capita GDP. The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce forecasts that by 2018, 67% of jobs in Washington State will require a college degree or credential.

At the same time, our schools and communities are failing to prepare students to succeed in STEM fields – this is a systemic challenge that requires a systemic solution. Furthermore, low-income and minority students are under-represented in this relatively small pool of STEM graduates. Students of color earn less than five percent of the STEM postsecondary degrees awarded in Washington. According to WA STEM, the state ranks 46th in participation in science and engineering graduate programs. We currently import more talent than we grow locally; our children and our communities risk being left out of the equation for success.

Looking at the pipeline of future graduates, and specifically the 55,000+ low-income students growing up in South Seattle and South King County (the Road Map region), education results are shockingly poor. The difference in attainment between those who migrate here and those who grow up here is staggering.

  • More than 50% of Washington’s children are not ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten (Puget Sound Educational Service District)
  • At best, ½ of students in the Road Map region are meeting standards for math and science and there is a significant achievement gap, with proficiency lower among low‐income and minority students (Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction)
  • Of the school graduates from the Road Map region who go on to community and technical colleges, 37% require remediation in math
  • Only 27% of all students in the Road Map region complete a college degree or credential including a one-year credential (the BERC Group)

According to the Washington Technology Industry Association in Seattle, the technology industry is driven by those holding STEM degrees. However, technology businesses in Washington have been forced to recruit talent from other states and nations to fill the needs of our industries.

Washington state’s universities simply do not produce enough bachelor or master degree holders in STEM degrees. In addition, more students and those entering the workforce need business skills that require problem solving, teamwork and leadership abilities. Advanced degrees, particularly PhDs in STEM fields are also needed by the technology industry to research and develop innovative new technology based goods and services.