In addition to administering the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Program, the College Success Foundation (CSF) is charged with oversight of the Washington State Opportunity Expansion (WSOE) program. As part of this effort—which evaluates proposals from colleges and universities to increase the production of four-year degrees in high-demand fields—CSF sought to understand capacity challenges affecting institutions in the state. Specifically, awards under the WSOE program were focused on meeting the needs of employers related to occupations in healthcare and STEM (science, technology, mathematics, and engineering).
As part of the preparation of a plan to mitigate these challenges, CSF engaged TIP Strategies to conduct a pilot study to explore institutional capacity issues within a single field of study: computer science. The study combined an analysis of available data with interviews to help define the issues affecting degree production in this area. Findings from the pilot study supported ongoing discussions in the state concerning the impact of budget cuts on degree production, the critical nature of student support services, and the need to better prepare students for postsecondary education. The interviews also provided food for thought with regard to strategies for addressing barriers and bottlenecks. These ranged from expanding programs designed to transition students from high school to college, to strategies for helping students navigate the complexities of the higher education system, to building community among students and connecting them with employers