Cantwell, Washington State University & Everett Community College Students Discuss the Need to Make College More Affordable

Senator, students discussed the urgent need for skilled technical, engineering and health care degrees to meet regional employee demand

EVERETT, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today hosted a roundtable discussion with students from Washington State University and Everett Community College to discuss the need to make college more affordable in order to meet the growing demand for skilled technicians and engineers in the region. At the roundtable, Cantwell heard from a group of students and student government leaders about the challenges they face with the high cost of college education and spoke on proposals in President Obama’s 2017 budget to reduce student debt and increase college affordability as well as other education issues pending before the U.S. Senate. 

“In Washington, we have a need for more than 6,000 engineers and an additional 34,000 healthcare workers. With such a large demand, we must determine how best to educate and train a skilled workforce. However, if the cost of education is one of the barriers to developing that workforce, we must find a way to drive down the cost to make skilling the workforce affordable,” Cantwell said. “When students graduate with higher skills, they earn more and generate greater economic opportunities in the community.” 

In 2014, the average outstanding balance of student debt in Washington state was $24,804 for undergraduate students. 

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, between 2016 and 2023 the Washington state economy will need 6,100 more engineers and 34,000 more healthcare workers. Graduating from a community college—which can be a gateway to four-year colleges—increases earnings by an average of $10,000 more a year than those with just a high school diploma. Those who continue on to graduate from a four-year program earn an average of $27,000 more annually than those with only a high school degree.

Senator Cantwell, who became the first in her family to attend college with the help of Pell Grants, firmly believes that college needs to be more affordable. Cantwell has fought to expand Perkins Loans and Pell Grants and has sponsored legislation to allow existing debt to be refinanced at lower rates. 

Washington State University North Puget Sound offers degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Hospitality Business Management, Integrated Strategic Communication and Software Engineering through an innovative 2+2 program which allows students to take their first two years at any community college and finish their junior and senior years at WSU. Everett Community College—which educates more than 19,000 students every year—offers a variety of educational options including associate’s degrees in Arts and Sciences, Science, Business, Applied Science, Technical Arts, Fine Arts, and General Studies, certificates of completion in technical and career fields, and professional training.