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Regional Challenge Grants

Moving the Attainment Needle

Theory of ChangeWashington’s north star for educational attainment is 70% of adults with a credential beyond high school (including certificates and apprenticeships).

Though there are signs of improvement across the state, we remain nearly 10 percentage points below this goal. At the same time, direct to college enrollment among Washington’s high school graduates decreased dramatically during the pandemic—from 59% for the Class of 2019 to only 50% for the Class of 2021. 

WSAC recognizes that our greatest chance of yielding systemic change in education requires that we center and uplift the strengths of communities in their collective efforts to improve educational outcomes for their students. Passed in 2022 with bipartisan support, Senate Bill 5789 established RCG with a $6 million initial investment. In 2023, the Legislature increased the funding to $16 million for the biennial budget.

In recognition of the need for culturally relevant and regionally responsive solutions, Regional Challenge Grants invest in the formation and growth of cross-sector partnerships that are committed to increasing educational attainment in their communities.

Our goal is to empower regional partnerships that invest in communities so that structural barriers no longer impede educational access and outcomes, especially for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English-language learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care.

$6 million invested to establish RCG1 in 5 residents live in a region with an active RCG partnership29 school districts, 1 tribal school8 partnerships, 65+ organizations

Legislative Report: Establishing the Regional Challenge Grant

This new report from WSAC introduces the inaugural RCG cohort, a remarkable collection of eight partnerships comprised of more than 65 organizations. The report includes materials from the initial Letter of Interest, the Intake Survey and Progress Report 1 as completed by the cohort.

Program Framework | Full Report (also available in Spanish) | Appendix A (English | Spanish).

Regional Challenge Grant Cohort

Eight total grantees, four in each grant tier, comprise the inaugural RCG cohort. Each partnership represents unique, innovative strategies informed by their region to increase postsecondary attainment and close systemic equity gaps. The broad range of strategies, partnerships, focus student populations, and regions represented are key to achieving the systems-change goal. Grantees represent $4.85 million in awards for work up to 1.5 years in length in eight distinct regions of the state.

Additional partnerships will be recommended at the May Council Meeting as a result of the 2024 Request for Letters of Interest Process.

RCG Cohort Reach in Washington State

A map of RCG cohort reach in Washington state

Implementation Grantees - Totaling $4.35 million in awards over a 1.5-year grant period

Implementation grantees represent established partnerships that are testing, expanding, or scaling their strategies and increasing postsecondary attainment for focus populations.

Chehalis School District

Chehalis School District's Student Achievement Initiative

In partnership with Chehalis Foundation, Centralia College, The BERC Group

Chehalis School District is building the two-generation Cornerstone Program to support both students and their families in their educational journeys, beginning in early childhood.

City of Seattle DEEL

City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) Postsecondary Success Network

In partnership with the Seattle Colleges, Seattle Public Schools, and CBOs and Economic Development Groups  

City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning is expanding mentorship opportunities for BIPOC high school juniors, seniors, and Seattle Promise scholars with the Postsecondary Success Network. School staff are also being trained in culturally relevant and responsive college and career readiness.

Foundation for Tacoma Students

Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS)

In partnership with more than 30 CBOs, Economic/Workforce Councils, K-12 School Districts, and Higher Education Institutions

Foundation for Tacoma Students is expanding the reach of What’s Next Senior Supports and Campaign Free Aid to support graduating seniors as they transition to postsecondary enrollment.

Launch NW

Launch NW

In partnership with 15 total regional partners including CBOs, K-12 School Districts, and Higher Education Institutions  

Launch NW is implementing the MPower mentoring program at six high schools throughout the Spokane region to support students’ postsecondary and career pathway exploration. 

Partnership Formation Grantees - Totaling $500,000 over a 1-year grant period

Partnership Formation grantees are in the earlier stages of retaining partners, recruiting new partners across sectors, and building deep relationships in their network. We recognize that early-stage partnership development may focus more on strategy and understanding the local context while other partnerships may be prepared to explore programmatic activities.

Methow Valley School District

Methow Valley School District

In partnership with Methow Valley Education Foundation, TwispWorks, Room One, Family Health Centers, and Western Washington University Sustainability Pathways

Methow Valley School District is formalizing business partnerships in the geographically isolated region so that more students receive career-based learning opportunities.

The STEM Foundation

The STEM Foundation

In partnership with Career Connect Southeast, Kiona-Benton School District, Columbia Basin College, WSU Tri Cities, The Rural Alliance, Educational Service District 123/Tri Tech Skills Center, WorkSource/TC Futures     

The STEM Foundation is establishing a Benton City-based partnership that contributes to the culture of credential attainment for students and parents.

United Way of the Blue Mountains

United Way of the Blue Mountains

In partnership with Elevate and Walla Walla Community College

United Way of the Blue Mountains is conducting a qualitative research study to understand why individuals in the region choose to forgo postsecondary education.

Yakima Valley Partners for Education

Yakima Valley Partners for Education

20+ cross-sector partners committed to serving the community across cradle to career and focused on food security, digital connectivity, parent and family engagement, and health     

Yakima Valley Partners for Education is educating parents on higher education in Spanish to increase access for students in the valley across six school districts.

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