Student Achievement Initiative

Purpose of the Initiative

In 2006, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges adopted a System Direction with an overall goal to “raise the knowledge and skills of the state’s residents” by increasing educational attainment across the state.

This goal is a substantial challenge for all of higher education, especially for community and technical colleges. Washington’s community and technical colleges serve a wide spectrum of learning needs from adult literacy for immigrants and K12 drop outs through advanced high school students taking college credit classes. Our colleges serve a predominantly working class and low income student population. The median age of our students is 26, 35 percent are students of color (compared to the state population of 24 percent people of color), over half are working full- or part-time, one third are parents, and over half attend college part-time.

The Student Achievement Initiative is the performance funding system for community and technical colleges. Its purposes are to both improve public accountability by more accurately describing what students achieve from enrolling in our colleges each year, and to provide incentives through financial rewards to colleges for increasing the levels of achievement attained by their students. It represents a shift from funding entirely for enrollment inputs to also funding meaningful outcomes.

Achievement Measures

Through a partnership with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, the college system identified key academic benchmarks that students must meet to successfully complete degrees and certificates. These achievement points are meaningful for all students across demographic characteristics (race, age, income, employment status), academic program or entering skill levels (basic skills, remedial, workforce education, academic transfer), intensity of enrollment (part-time or full-time enrollment), and type of institution attended (urban, rural, large, small, community college, technical college). Rigorous data analysis has identified Achievement points that once accomplished, substantially improve students’ chances of completing degrees and certificates.

The categories of Achievement measures are:

  • Building towards college-level skills (basic skills gains, passing precollege writing or math)
  • First year retention (earning 15 then 30 college level credits)
  • Completing college-level math (passing math courses required for either technical or academic associate degrees)
  • Completions (degrees, certificates, apprenticeship training)

These measures focus students and institutions on shorter term, intermediate outcomes that provide meaningful momentum towards degree and certificate completion for all students no matter where they start. Colleges can track student progress towards these achievement points each quarter, providing immediate feedback and opportunities for intervention strategies.


Beginning in October 2011, a System Advisory Group led by WACTC reviewed the Student Achievement Initiative’s metrics and funding model. The review coincided with the final evaluation of the Initiative conducted by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and the Institute for higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP). The Advisory Group made four recommendations to WACTC for principles, the measures framework, the funding method, and an implementation plan. WACTC approved the recommendations at their November meeting for submission to the State Board.  The recommendation for a revised measures framework shifts the focus to progression, and includes the addition of a 45 college-level credit point and a retention point.    

For more information on the history of Student Achievement and it's first five years or for information related to the revised system, see the appropriate link below:

Student Achievement 2006

Student Achievement Revised 2012

For more information, please contact David Prince, SBCTC, 360-704-4347.

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