System Direction

State Board Goals and Policy Focus

In 2006, the State Board developed the System Direction, a framework for Washington's community and technical colleges. The plan brought together the State Board's vision and principles, 10-year goals, Mission Study action plan, and policy focus to guide innovations and development, pursuit and use of resources, and measuring progress.

The Board regularly revisits its goals and policy focuses to meet the current environment.

System Direction: Creating Opportunities for Washington’s Future

Vision and Preface

Ten Year Goals:

Next Steps


Build strong communities, individuals and families, and achieve greater global competitiveness and prosperity for the state and its economy by raising the knowledge and skills of the state’s residents.

Top of page


Higher education is vital to society and individuals. Economic prosperity, the livelihood of families and individuals, and the strength of communities are just a few tangible results. People who attend colleges and universities live healthier lives, and give back to society locally and globally. For these reasons, the state must find ways to create more higher education opportunities for all residents across the state.

An effective economic development strategy has essential elements, such as investment capital, sound regulatory and taxation policies, and an efficient transportation system. Many agencies and organizations are working to further these areas in our state, in order to make Washington more competitive on a global scale. Underlying all of these elements is the need for a talented labor force.

Community and technical colleges make their greatest contribution by growing a talented, skilled citizenry and creating opportunities for Washingtonians. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is setting this System Direction to align college system efforts with the current and future needs for strong communities and a vibrant economy.

Our state’s need for an educated population is accelerating. Advancing technology, flatter organizations, and the churning in the state’s economy, as resource-based industries decline and knowledge-based industries take their place, mean people must be more flexible, innovative, and creative. The economy demands higher levels of knowledge and skills. Higher education must adapt to provide lifelong learning and making educational opportunities available to everyone.

The state’s population will continue to grow and become more diverse. Over the next two decades, fewer young adults will be entering the workforce and more older, well educated adults will be leaving. This means that the community and technical colleges have to improve educational attainment rates for both young people and for current employees.

Young people alone cannot meet the economy’s demand for skilled employees with college certificates and degrees. Currently, 1.4 million working age adults in Washington (one-third of today’s workforce) have no formal education beyond high school. This is equal to the sum of the next 10 years of high school graduating classes across the state. The race to be globally competitive will be lost if the state relies solely on recent high school graduates. Over the next 10 years, the largest and fastest growing age group in the state’s population is adults 25 to 35 years old. These adults will be in the workforce for the next 30 years, and too many are stuck in low wage jobs, not fully contributing to a strong, vibrant economy. It is essential to improve educational attainment among these under educated adults to meet the knowledge and skills demanded by the state’s economy.

Growth in the state’s population will also be concentrated among people of color. Over the next 15 years, the increase in the number of people of color will equal the increase in the white population. This growing diversity represents strength in a global economy, bringing a diversity of talents, creativity, values and languages to the state’s workforce. These strengths are vital to the state’s global competitiveness. Community and technical colleges are key to higher education access for people of color for English proficiency, job skills certificates, associate and bachelor’s degrees. Efforts to infuse diversity education throughout the curriculum must increase. This starts with the State Board’s firm commitment to hire a more diverse faculty and staff at our colleges.

Meeting the challenges outlined above (higher knowledge and skills demanded by the economy and older, more diverse future population) will require innovation on the part of community and technical colleges. The college system must create an agile, technologically integrated educational environment that is innovative and up-to-date. The college system must strengthen the colleges as centers of education in their communities. Innovative curriculum, flexible delivery methods, new technologies, online access to college instruction and services, dynamic partnerships, stringent measurements, and increased recruitment and retention of underserved people are essential. The future of Washington depends on a college system with these attributes. Individuals, families and communities can only thrive with greater educational achievement.

Top of page

Ten Year Goals

The State Board has developed three broad goals to guide the system over the next ten years. Attention to these goals will provide us with a framework for system innovations and development, pursuit and use of resources, and measuring progress.

Economic Demand

Strengthen state and local economies by meeting the demands for a well educated and skilled workforce.

  • Continually reassess the knowledge and skills needed for a thriving economy at local and state levels.
  • Meet the needs of changing local economies by increasing the number of skilled employees in the areas of greatest unmet need.
  • Support strategic industries by appropriately focusing program growth and development.
  • Meet the unique needs of innovative, entrepreneurial people who are operating small businesses, working as creative, independent contractors in the knowledge-based society.
  • Be responsive to the changing needs of the business community by offering high quality, relevant, flexible programs.

Top of page

Student Success

Achieve increased educational attainment for all residents across the state.

  • Enroll more underserved populations.
  • Improve academic achievement for all students.
  • Ensure community and technical college is affordable and accessible, especially for basic skills and part-time students, by developing bold, creative and innovative methods, including low tuition, need based tuition waivers and restructured financial aid.
  • Provide smooth transitions from K12 to colleges to universities.
  • Expand the pipeline to associate and bachelor’s degrees, particularly in math, science, engineering and health sciences.

Top of page


Use technology, collaboration and innovation to meet the demands of the economy and improve student success.

  • Recognize and adapt to the changing nature of how people learn, how they access information and communication by making technological advancement part of the system’s strategic direction.
  • Ensure state-of-the-art, lifelong education that is relevant, convenient and efficient.
  • Produce better education that meets the needs of local communities by taking full advantage of cost effective partnerships and leveraging outside resources.
  • Accomplishment of these goals rests upon the shoulders of our faculty and staff.  They are essential to innovation in our colleges.

Top of page


The Board adhered to four principles as it undertook these goals.

  • First, the State Board sets policy direction for the community and technical college system in collaboration with colleges and other system partners. It advocates for and allocates state resources to the colleges. The colleges are responsible for meeting the education needs of their communities. The State Board will build upon existing strengths and successes of the college system.
  • Second, policy direction and investments are centered upon student needs, student diversity, the impact of new technologies, and enhancing students’ knowledge, skills and educational attainment. Specific measurements will be used to gauge success. Colleges will be rewarded for improved results for all three system direction goals.
  • Third, talented faculty and staff representing the state’s diversity are essential to student success. Investments in recruitment, professional development and compensation are required to attract and retain talented faculty and staff.
  • Finally, public funding for the state’s community and technical colleges is an essential priority investment in advancing the state’s prosperity. To meet the changing needs of our communities the college system will continue to leverage new and existing public investments through partnerships with local organizations and reprioritization of programs and services.

Next Steps

The Board will organize its work to pursue this plan. Biennial system budget requests have been proposed to advance the goals. The system will also work collaboratively with its partners to develop the policies and measurements critical to long term success.

Top of page

WA State Board for Community and Technical Colleges  |  Open 8 AM - 5 PM, Mon-Fri  |  Phone: 360-704-4400  |  Fax: 360-704-4415

PO Box 42495  1300 Quince Street SE  Olympia, WA 98504-2495  |  Get Directions  |  Contact Web Master