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Regional Challenge Grants

Innovations in College & Career Pathways

Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) engaged with students and stakeholders to better understand the enrollment crisis in Washington State and to brainstorm solutions. Regional Challenge Grants are the result of that work. The Legislature passed Senate Bill 5789, providing $6 million in initial funding for Regional Challenge Grants for 2022-23.

Regional Challenge Grants seek to advance statewide postsecondary attainment goals by expanding the number of community and regional partnerships—and supporting the further development of existing community and regional partnerships—that are focused on increasing postsecondary enrollment and credential completion (inclusive of certificates and degrees) for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English language learners, students with disabilities, and foster and homeless youth by doing one or more of the following:

  • Increase direct enrollment of high school students
  • Increase enrollment of adults returning to education 
  • Increase the completion rate of students’ postsecondary credentials

Two tiers of grants are available:

  1. Partnership Formation grants are up to one year in length with a maximum award of $125,000 focused on building strong regional partnerships to improve postsecondary attainment and career pathways.
  2. Implementation grants are up to 2.5 years in length with a maximum investment of $750,000 per year awarded to already established partnerships to test new strategies, expand efforts, or scale up the number of students they can impact.

The Fiscal Year 2024 Application Cycle timeline will be announced shortly.

First Cycle Grantees

Six grantees were approved by Council in the December 2022 meeting for the inaugural cycle of the Regional Challenge Grant, followed by two additional grantees at the February 2023 meeting. This first cohort of regional partnerships represent innovative strategies from across the state to increase postsecondary attainment and close equity gaps. Grantees represent up to $4.85 million in awards for work up to 1.5-years in length in eight distinct counties.

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

Foundation for Tacoma Students

Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS)

Tier 2: Implementation Grant Awardee
Pierce County
$1.2 million maximum award over 1.5-year grant period
Partnered with more than 30 CBOs, Economic/Workforce Councils, K-12 School Districts, and Higher Education Institutions

Implementing Summer Melt and Financial Aid Completion 

  • Implement a coordinated community response to support students on their transition out of high school  
    • Community-based student check-in survey to collect and centralize each student’s request for support  
    • Provide earlier support in the year with postsecondary planning and extended support during the post-graduation summer 
    • Coordinated ‘Community Response Team’ to respond to each request within 48 hours  
    • Supports include mentorship, financial aid support, resume building, and connections with employers/organizations, etc. 
    • Track the hand-off between K-12 and postsecondary systems (whether it’s higher education, apprenticeships, the workforce, or even disengagement), to collect and analyze individual-level outcome data after young people exit 
  • Launch a multidistrict campaign that is county-wide to increase FAFSA/WASFA completion rates  
    • Increase Pierce County FAFSA/WASFA submission rates with a focus on closing racial and income equity gaps 
    • Coordinated community outreach and financial aid completion events  
    • Application completion tracking at events coupled with case management referrals for applications still in progress  
    • Technical assistance for financial aid applications to school districts and community-based organizations  
    • Campaign communications and marketing materials 
    • Champions will have access to professional development and seed funding to support completion efforts within their local schools and community.

View the complete Foundation for Tacoma Students LOI

City of Seattle DEEL

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

Tier 2: Implementation Grant Awardee
King County
$1.25 million maximum award over 1.5-year grant period
Partnered with the Seattle Colleges, Seattle Public Schools, and CBOs and Economic Development Groups  

A cohesive and coordinated network of support that leads to increased racial equity in postsecondary attainment 

  • Create a network of community- based organizations that will provide culturally specific, affinity-based mentorship to all Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Seattle high school juniors and seniors, focused on closing equity gaps 
  • Provide career exploration resources, foundational career skill building, and access to paid internships for BIPOC students that align with their career interests and goals 
  • Shape adult practices so that the adults (educators, school staff, guidance/mentoring staff) supporting students and families in college and career readiness use a culturally specific and responsive lens in their approach 
    • Provide professional development to high school educators and school staff focused on Culturally Specific Responsive (CSR) practices in College & Career Readiness (CCR) supports for students and families.  
    • Culturally specific individual mentorship to support student’s college and career readiness, and navigation of wrap-around services in high school and postsecondary campuses.  
    • Coordinated services through high school to postsecondary transitions using a team case management approach that will include Outreach Specialists, teachers, instructors, counselors, and Retention Specialists - case managed by mentors  

View the complete City of Seattle DEEL LOI

Launch NW

Launch NW

Tier 2: Implementation Grant Awardee
Spokane County
$850,000 maximum award over 1.5-year grant period
Partnered with 15 total regional partners including CBOs, K-12 School Districts, and Higher Education Institutions  

Implementation of the Coordinated Community Mentorship Program (CCMP) at 6 high schools across Spokane County

  • Site Coordinators in six high schools will bring together regional partners to provide mentorship support 
  • CCMP will intentionally focus on support for low-income, BIPOC, students experiencing homelessness, and English language learning (ELL) students, as well as their families 
  • Models will include Peer, Near-Peer, and Parent-to-Parent mentorship  
  • Mentorship training programs with core curriculum will be developed and implemented with the support of cross-sector partners  
  • Mentorship will include an emphasis on career exploration, as well as support with the college-going process  
  • Launch will analyze data to collect individual-level baseline, participation, and outcomes data for implemented strategies   

View the complete Launch NW LOI

Chehalis School District

Chehalis School District's Student Achievement Initiative

Tier 2: Implementation Grant Awardee
Lewis County
$1.05 million maximum award over 1.5-year grant period
Partnered with Chehalis Foundation, Centralia College, The BERC Group

Implementing Parent/Family Engagement and Dual Generation Strategies

  • Family engagement on the P-8 Pathway 
    • Work directly with families from pre-kindergarten through middle school 
    • Coordinate with existing middle school staff for alignment to HS pathway 
    • Focus on reducing equity gaps among Hispanic students, low-income families, foster and homeless youth and special education students 
  • Build out metrics and early warning system for the P-12 pathway to develop college and career readiness 
    • Build on existing metrics develop in the SAI work to date 
    • Incorporate existing academic metrics used along the P-12 pathway 
    • Develop new measures to track family engagement and permit evaluation of impact of family engagement strategies 
  • Test dual generation strategies to engage parents and care givers about their own career development 
    • Work with WSAC and Centralia College to make parents aware of adult-friendly learning and training opportunities

View the complete Chehalis School District SAI LOI

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

The STEM Foundation

The STEM Foundation

Tier 1: Partnership Formation Grant Awardee
Benton County
$125,000 maximum award over 1-year grant period
Partnered 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     

  • Create a two-generation approach to engage students and families early on for credential attainment 
  • Collaborate with partners to increase credential attainment and connect students to the local workforce

View the complete The STEM Foundation LOI

Yakima Valley Partners for Education

Yakima Valley Partners for Education

Tier 1: Partnership Formation Grant Awardee
Yakima County
$125,000 maximum award over 1-year grant period
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     

  • Utilize a multi-lingual and grassroots approach that centers community voices to build momentum for high school graduation, and increase postsecondary attainment and career entry for students in the Lower Yakima Valley  
  • Build out community capacity where families and students can receive high school and postsecondary support, including support for decision-making  

View the complete Yakima Valley Partners for Education LOI

Methow Valley School District

Methow Valley School District

Tier 1: Partnership Formation Grant Awardee
Okanogan County
$125K maximum award over 1-year grant period
To formalize cross-sector business partnerships toward the development of paid apprenticeships based on student interests and local skills gaps to position students ages 16–24 for upward mobility in livable wage-earning jobs in the community.

  • Create local and regional partnerships that can capitalize on a range of expertise and experience to develop a comprehensive understanding of the specific barriers and opportunities that the community’s rural youth face in gaining skills, credentials, and the education necessary to close the skill gaps seen by local employers.
  • Vastly expand dual credit and “earn to learn” opportunities directly linking students to career connected postsecondary degree and certificate programs.

View the complete Methow Valley LOI.

United Way of the Blue Mountains

United Way of the Blue Mountains

Tier 1: Partnership Formation Grant Awardee
Walla Walla County
$125K maximum award over 1-year grant period
Build partnership capacity by completing a qualitative study on why individuals in the rural region choose to forgo postsecondary education, to inform strategic action and increase postsecondary enrollment in the region.

  • Utilize the network of cradle-to-career contacts to conduct research for interviews, focus groups, and surveys.
  • Leverage evidence to inform action through a participatory planning process utilizing a collective impact model.

View the complete United Way LOI.