Landscape begins to shift for students deciding on college in Washington

When you think of a high school senior, the first thing that probably comes to mind is college. These days, there’s a lot to know when it comes to all the options available for affording a college education.

Four-year universities are the “traditional” route students have been encouraged to take for decades, but let’s compare all the options you have here in the state of Washington.

Washington features a mix of public and private universities in addition to community colleges. Public universities like WSU and UW will cost anywhere between $29,000 and $30,000 a year when you factor in tuition, housing, food, books, and other course supplies.

It gets even pricier for students going the private route, with options like Seattle University or Pacific Lutheran running anywhere between $64,000-$75,000.

Community colleges like South Puget Sound and Cascadia College charge per credit, which costs anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a handful of credits to a couple thousand for 20 credits.

All of this is without any federal funding, scholarships, or grants -- which is something your child could certainly look into to help alleviate some of the financial costs.

But some research from the National Student Clearinghouse finds that while historically college is the most common route taken by students, enrollment is actually on the decline. From 2010-2021, undergraduate enrollment has steadily decreased 15%.

Meanwhile, alternative options like trade and technical colleges have received more interest, with an 11.5% increase in enrollment from spring 2021-2022.

When it comes to finding a one-size-fits-all approach, there is no right or wrong answer. But the best thing you can do is be informed and make an educated decision together with your kids.