Washington State

Our goal
To help more students in Washington State enroll in a postsecondary program after high school.
A family newly housed at Croft Place Townhomes, a low-income housing complex in West Seattle.
Graduates of Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School in 2014.

At a glance

  • Nearly 90% of Washington’s high schoolers say they want to continue their education after high school, but only 50% of graduates earn a postsecondary degree or credential.
  • We work with local schools, colleges, and community organizations to help close that gap.
  • We support locally led partnerships across the state that help students continue their education beyond high school—whether in a trade school, an apprenticeship program, or a two- or four-year college.
  • We are creating a learning network of regional partners and providing grants and technical assistance to help them explore solutions that can help more of the state’s students pursue their postsecondary aspirations.
  • Our statewide strategy is informed by guidance and input from more than 200 educators, researchers, school district leaders, and other experts in the field, as well as parents and community members.
Our strategy

Our strategy

Everyone should have opportunities to determine their own future. That core belief drives our foundation’s work around the world and in our home state of Washington.

In the Seattle area, we support local organizations that address issues affecting the lives of the most vulnerable residents, including housing security, access to social services, and racial equity.

Across the state, we focus on education, which we believe is essential to giving young people control over their own lives now and into the future. Our efforts include working with local and regional partners to help students see a clear path to success in the careers they choose, with an emphasis on young people who face the highest barriers, including Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds and rural communities. That work begins with helping students take the next step in their education after high school—whether it’s trade school, an apprenticeship program, or a two- or four-year college.

We have committed about $75 million over the next four years to support locally led partnership across the state that help students continue their education beyond high school and pursue their aspirations. This builds on our local investments in education over the past 20 years and expands our efforts to all corners of the state.

Young students at White Center Heights Elementary School in Seattle, WA on January 5, 2015.
Students at Seattle’s White Center Heights Elementary School.

For more details about our efforts in Washington State, go to local.gatesfoundation.org.

Visit our Washington State website

For more details on our work to support students and families across Washington State, please visit our program website.

Why focus on Washington State?

Why focus on Washington State?

Our foundation has a deep commitment to improving the lives of students, families, and communities in Washington State, where the Gates family has lived for generations. With more than 1,000 foundation employees based in Seattle, we have a collective interest in helping to build a better future for the place we call home.

Over the past 20 years, we have supported a range of programs in Washington State—including efforts to reduce family homelessness, support high-quality early learning, and invest in public libraries, equity in education, and community foundations. While our grantmaking focus has changed over the years, we remain committed to helping people in our state take control over their own lives.

We’ve intensified our focus on education because too many young people here still face barriers to pursuing their educational and career goals. Only 50% of Washington’s high school graduates earn a postsecondary credential, despite nearly 90% saying that they want to continue their education beyond high school. Many Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds face additional barriers—including lack of access to college prep support and difficulty navigating systems if they are the first in their family to pursue college.

By supporting local partners and community-led solutions, we believe we can change that. To get there, we’re focusing on where our grantmaking can make the greatest impact. We’re listening to students, parents, and educators to identify what’s working for them and where they need more support. We’re also bringing different groups together—including schools and community-based organizations—to share expertise, build on each other’s strengths, and coordinate efforts.

Gateway to College Students attend the culmination class and ceremony for the College Strategies and Career Exploration classes at Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland, WA.  Students discuss their final grades, return their books, and receive their Gateway to College certificate of completion.
Students in the Gateway to College program at Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland, Washington.

Each of our grants strengthens and advances the work already being done by smaller nonprofits, schools, and local organizations. Together, they help more people achieve their full potential, champion local talent and innovation, and improve the quality of life across our state.

Strategy leadership

Strategy leadership

Related programs

Related programs

Economic Mobility and Opportunity
Economic Mobility and Opportunity

The Economic Mobility and Opportunity team works to help the U.S. economic system better meet the needs of those experiencing poverty and significantly increase their opportunities to achieve economic success.


The Pathways team supports efforts to ensure that Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty can access at every stage the skills development, support, and relationships necessary to thrive in education and the workforce.

Postsecondary Success

The Postsecondary Success team supports colleges and universities in making institutional reforms that eliminate race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of educational success.