What We Learn

A college education benefits more than the students themselves, it also strengthens families, neighborhoods, the larger community, and the whole state of Washington.  Unfortunately, low-income students do not always have equal access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

Consider the facts:

  • Only 20% of bachelor’s degrees awarded by age 24 are earned by students from families in the bottom half of American income distribution.* 
  • Even when demographic background, academic preparation and performance are taken into account, students who are the first in their families to attend college are less likely to graduate than their peers from college-educated families.**
  • Increasing minority students participation in college to the same percentage as that of white students would create an additional $231 billion in GDP and at least $80 billion in new tax revenues.***

To address inequity in college attainment, College Spark supports programs and strategies that help Washington’s low-income students improve academic attainment, prepare for college life, and earn their degrees. 

Our funding is targeted toward capacity building efforts that improve organizations' ability to effectively use data to improve programs, generate compelling evidence of what works in college readiness and degree completion, and share knowledge about promising practices.   


* Mortenson, Thomas.  “Family Income and Higher Education Opportunity 1970-2003.”  Postsecondary Education Opportunity  June 2005. 1.

** Chen, Xianglei, and Carroll, C. Dennis. “First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education” National Center for Education Statistics.  July 2005.

*** Alliance for Education - (Carnevale and Desrochers, 2002).