Washington State Student Achievement Council (WSAC) identified that by 2023, 185,000 non-traditional students (25-34) are needed to achieve a credential to meet our state’s workforce demands; almost 50 percent more than already expected to complete a college certification. One of the main challenges to reaching this goal is making college affordable for low-and middle -income students and engaging Washington employers and their current employees.
To reach the attainment goals, efforts must be expanded beyond a focus on students moving directly from high school to college. Working adults without a postsecondary credential have a lot to gain by returning to complete a degree or certificate, including higher wages, fewer periods of unemployment, and more options to meet personal and career goals. However, for many adults the prospect of enrolling in college is daunting. In addition to the typical challenges of affordability and academic preparation, which many students face, adult students also tend to have additional barriers, such as scheduling conflicts, child care availability, and other family commitments.
Employers play an important role in promoting and supporting worker’s educational completion through tuition programs and negotiating flexible schedules. Businesses who help workers complete their education also reduce turnover and talent management costs, and are more attractive to new employees. Despite a return of unemployment rates to pre-recession levels, a skills mismatch remains between employers’ critical, in-demand skills and the availability of those skills in workers.
Workforce Stability and Education Tax Credit
Washington State should establish a tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses to incentivize employers to help contribute to the education costs for their employees’ at any eligible institution they choose to help our workforce prepare for the jobs of the future.
- The tax credit should be available to all tuition education related costs (tuition, books, transportation) at state approved certifications at eligible institutions (eligible institutions).
- The tax credit should target low-wage workers with income below the states median wage (under $55,000). The opportunity should take into consideration only the individuals current income, not household.
- The amount the employee would receive would be between $1,000 to $6,000 per employee annually to cover average tuition costs to a cap.
Washington currently offers the state need grant, but for a family of 1 to 3 household members the income eligibility is between $31,000 to $51,000. About 25% of Washington Households earn between $30 to $55k per year and aren’t eligible.
Also, the State Need Grant ranges depending on household income, so a family of 3 earning $41,000 could apply and receive 70% of the grant $2,534 toward tuition at a Community or Technical College. In context, the cost to attend the 3 quarter.NET Developer Certificate Program at CPTC is 4,320.41 for tuition and $1,149 for books – $5,579.81. So the State Need Grant doesn’t cover the costs by itself and isn’t available to a number of working families (especially single earner households between the $30 to $50k range).
Having employer’s buy-in can be a key success factor for students’ success and completion for non-traditional students. There often needs to be some negotiations in navigating work, school, and family balances. Employer buy-in can help encourage employees to complete their certification and the flexibility needed to develop a work schedule that allows both work and school.