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Preparing for College is a Group Effort

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Today I just returned from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Leadership Conference where high-ranking elected officials and business executives discussed the future economic health and vitality of the Puget Sound region. Leaders discussed foreign direct investment in the State of Washington, the marketing and branding of the Seattle area to the rest of the country and world, and the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as it relates to building and maintaining new industries in the Pacific Northwest. The one common denominator amongst all these discussions was the critical importance of education.

 Whether it was a conversation about K-12 education reform or the need to expand programs at our state’s universities and community colleges, everyone agreed we need to graduate more students from higher education institutions with the skills to meet the needs of today’s 21st century economy. As we all know this is not and inexpensive endeavor and the costs of education continue to rise especially in the STEM fields because of the expertise needed to teach these programs and because of the high tech equipment required to run labs and support hands-on learning.

increase grads callout One of the key discussion points I shared was the importance of families saving for their kids higher education when they are young so that college is not just a dream but a reality. I also emphasized the importance of the business community to step forward and help families save by offering 529 plan payroll deduction to their employees. Even more powerful, I suggested that both businesses and government consider incentives for savings by offering matching programs so that parents are encouraged to save more and are better prepared to meet the rising costs of education. The one thing that improves access to education is resources and the one way we can help increase the number of college graduates in our country is to help people save!

 Saving for college should be a partnership effort between government, parents and business because less debt means more spending and economic buying power for the next generation of graduates. It is proven when students graduate with more debt they are less likely to buy homes, cars, and technology because their income is being used to pay off loans. Student loan debt also has a significant impact on innovation as graduates don’t have the credit availability to startup new businesses and 60% of new jobs in our country are created by startups. Student loan debt also affects career choices. higher ed calloutStudents who have huge loans to pay off can’t afford to take lower paying public service jobs because they need higher paying private sector jobs in order to afford their loan payments. Ten years ago student loan debt for our country totaled $300 billion. Today student loan debt has quadrupled and is now at $1.2 trillion.

 If we want to fill that talent gaps that exist in our country and continue to feed the innovation that will drive the future economic growth of industry in our nation, we need to be at the forefront of creating meaningful partnerships and incentives that allow families to save for the future education needs of their children. Higher education should not be looked at as a private benefit but rather a public good. Let’s work together and be on forefront of creating instrumental change to the access of higher education in our country.

Written by Ryan Betz

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