While high school graduation rates have increased in Tacoma over the past nine years, postsecondary enrollment and completion rates have remained stagnant (49% and 55% respectively). Understanding the role a postsecondary education has in attaining living-wage employment, the Graduate Tacoma movement has doubled-down on its efforts to connect students seeking an education after high school with the supports they need.

Last fall, the Foundation for Tacoma Students launched an environmental scan that studied the factors most challenging to Tacoma students seeking a postsecondary education. Grounded in interviews with community nonprofits and institutions, a survey of families and youth from the TPS classes of 2014 to 2019, and a data analysis of relevant outcomes, the Foundation aims to inform strategic efforts developing through the Graduate Tacoma Community Learning Fund’s third investment area, Postsecondary Access & Completion. This investment area is focused on strengthening current community efforts to close equity gaps and increase the overall rate of Tacoma Public School graduates on a postsecondary pathway.

The following is a summary of the most important findings from our research. Click here to read the full report.

The Foundation has partnered with the College Success Foundation to serve as our community Postsecondary Access Intermediary. As intermediary to this issue, they will lead work to address many of the findings within this report alongside the Graduate Tacoma College Support Network and other community institutions.

Complementary Efforts

This environmental scan about postsecondary access for students complements parallel work to improve persistence and completion at postsecondary institutions through the Tacoma Completes initiative, led by Degrees of Change.

Click here to read the complementary environmental scan released in early 2019 that examines college persistence and completion.

While both scans address different elements of the postsecondary pathway, common barriers arose related to a lack of basic needs, including housing, transportation, food, and others. In order to address one of these key areas, the Foundation has partnered with the Tacoma Housing Authority to support their College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), a program that houses homeless or near homeless college students. With additional support from Degrees of Change, the partnership has successfully aligned with UW Tacoma, Tacoma Community College and Tacoma Public Schools to provide additional subsidized housing for local college students beginning January 2020.

For more information on community work related to the postsecondary pathway overall, please feel free to contact us: