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Originally published September 22, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Page modified September 22, 2012 at 9:51 PM

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Trends: Washington state's higher-education paradox

Washington ranks among the bottom states for the rate of high-school graduates who go on to college.

Seattle Times higher-education reporter

Compared with most other states, Washington has a high percentage of adults with a college degree, in part because so many college graduates move here for work.

But those numbers mask another reality: We rank among the bottom states for the rate of high-school graduates who go on to college. The only states that perform worse are Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Vermont. Read related story →

The Washington higher-education paradox

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About these trends

This graphic is based on data about the class of 2009, and on recent trends that were used to calculate the likelihood that the students would finish college.

According to the Washington State Education Research & Data Center (ERDC), a state agency funded by the U.S. Department of Education, 62,810 students graduated from Washington public high schools in 2009. The Superintendent of Public Instruction puts the state’s extended graduation rate at 79.2 percent, so when dropouts are included, the class of 2009 would have been about 79,000 students.

The ERDC found that 20,774 of those graduates went to a community college or technical program, and 18,763 went to a four-year university, the vast majority staying in-state.

Completion rates for students at four-year schools were calculated using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which reports that 68.8 percent of students at Washington’s four-year schools complete college within six years. Nationally, the figure is 57.4 percent. For students who went out-of-state, however, the percentage of students that completed college could be higher, since some of the state’s strongest academic performers go out of state.

Completion rates for students at Washington’s community and technical colleges were calculated using data from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. In the fall quarter of 2007 — the most recent data available — 74 percent of students who entered a community or technical college directly from high school intended to transfer to a four-year college or university.

Of those students, 41 percent transferred or completed an associate degree within four years. Of the students who earned an associate degree, more than half transferred to another institution for additional schooling.

The number of students from the class of 2009 who are expected to earn a college degree would likely be higher if students from private high schools were included. However, the ERDC does not track private-school students. According to the NCES, about 4,600 students graduate from private high schools in Washington each year, or about 7 percent of all graduates.

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