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With help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an emphasis on online education in Washington has been growing. Students can find undergraduate and graduate online degrees in Washington and a variety of flexible degrees offered through distance learning programs in the state.

Online Colleges in Washington

Residents of Washington state may be finding more opportunities to help prepare for the careers and jobs of tomorrow. Online colleges in Washington can help them pursue a postsecondary education. With a range of online degrees in Washington available from the undergraduate to graduate level, recent high school graduates, adults looking for education to help effect a career change, or even working professionals seeking professional development have educational opportunities.

In fact, ease of access to online colleges in Washington may be growing. The state's Board of Education recently drafted a strategic plan (sbe.was.gov) in order to help new high school graduates transition to a postsecondary education. College and career preparation is a goal for this plan, in addition to improving success in a postsecondary education setting. Washington Online (waol.org) is even specifically cited within the plan, as a site through which students can find more information about the various online colleges in Washington.

Trends in Washington Online Schools

Data as far back as 2008 suggest there has been an emphasis on online schools in Washington. In fact, online courses in the state's community and technical colleges have grown by 715 percent between 2000 and 2008, outpacing the growth in the rest of the nation, according to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (sbctc.edu). Nationally, online classes have grown by 10 percent, but in Washington's system, that growth rate exceeds 15 percent per year.

As recently as 2010, however, SBCTC hosted an Open Course Library Kick-Off meeting, according to Ed Tech Frontier (edtechfrontier.com). This Open Course Library is just one of four higher education initiatives in Washington funded through a $5.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $1.8 million grant earmarked for the Open Course Library aims to help design and collect materials for more than 80 high quality courses available for on-campus, hybrid and online classes in the school's system.

Among other goals, this initiative also aims to help the state's college system become more involved in the open educational resources, or OER, trend. How are things progressing? Currently, 42 courses are available online through the state's Open Course Library, helping give students improved access to materials and at an affordable cost (less than $30 for textbooks, according to the site).

College Degrees in Washington

Washington ranks 12th among all states in 2010 as far as college attainment of associate degrees, according to the non-profit Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org). In fact, approximately 42.5 percent of adults in the state have at least a two-year degree. However, this could change by 2025, when a skills gap between the number of educated workers and the number of skilled jobs could exist. A need for more educated workers could already exist. As of 2010, some 22.5 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 in the state only had a high school diploma (or GED), and slightly more than 6 percent did not graduate from high school. Online colleges in Washington could help these adults, or those who live in areas such as Grant and Yakima counties, which both have fewer adults with postsecondary degrees.

Online degrees in Washington could be helpful to those who already have an associate degree or above, and want to continue their education or pursue professional development. Consider that 21 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 in the state have a bachelor's degree, and more than 11 percent hold a graduate or professional degree, according to the Lumina Foundation. Some of the fastest-growing occupations in Washington from 2010 to 2020 requiring a bachelor's degree are forecast for biomedical engineers, dietitians and nutritionists, survey researchers and several others, according to CareerOneStop (careerinfo.net), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Online colleges in Washington could offer programming to students interested in those and other fast-growing fields.

Online College in Washington

A variety of options exist when it comes to choosing an online college in Washington. Western Governors University Washington (washington.wgu.edu) has established a new online university offering bachelor's and master's degree programs to help meet the needs of working adults. The university's four colleges -- business, information technology, teachers college, and health professions (including nursing) -- offer more than 50 bachelor's and master's degrees. WGU Washington's stated mission is to expand access to affordable higher education for Washington residents through online, competency-based degree programs that address key workforce needs.

Washington State University Global Campus (online.wsu.edu), launched in July 2012, helps to connect Washington State University with the rest of the world, providing access to WSU for students and faculty. The Global Campus consists of five "pillars," including WSU Online, Digital Academy, Global Connections, eLearning Services and Conference Management. Bellevue College Distance Education (bellevuecollege.edu) offers students the ability to pursue a degree or certificate completely online. The school offers seven associate degrees, with three that can be pursued entirely at a distance: Associate in Arts and Sciences, Associate in Business and Associate in Arts in General Studies. An online Bachelor of Arts degree in Healthcare Technology & Management is also offered.

Sources:
Belleveue College Distance Education
CareerOneStop, Washington
EdTech Frontier
Lumina Foundation, Washington
Open Course Library
Washington Online
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
Washington State University Global Campus
Western Governors University Washington

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