(Gillette, Wyo.) Wyoming has been chosen to participate in efforts to close higher education attainment gaps, significantly boosting efforts to increase postsecondary educational attainment for the state’s citizens.
Wyoming was one of three states selected by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) to be part of the higher Education Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps. The other two states are Utah and Arizona.
For the next 20 months, Wyoming will receive consultation support for development of a statewide educational attainment plan. The state will also receive $30,000 to help implement said plan.
Along with Wyoming’s seven community colleges and the Wyoming Community College Commission, the University of Wyoming submitted the proposal to WICHE on behalf of the state.
“Wyoming set a high educational attainment goal. It is important to give every person the access to higher education,” Gov. Matt Mead said in a press release. “The selection of Wyoming as a member of this task force gives us important additional resources. Our educational attainment goal is an important cornerstone for diversifying our economy.”
Earlier this year, Mead issued an executive order that called for an increase in the number of Wyoming’s working-age population to achieve higher education. By 2025, 67 percent of the population should hold postsecondary certificates or degrees. By 2040, that number should increase to 82 percent.
At this moment, only 48 percent of Wyoming citizens hold certificates or degrees, according to data acquired by the Lumina Foundation.
“Wyoming’s future economic success requires that a higher percentage of its working population possess a postsecondary credential,” wrote Greg Hill, who chairs the governor’s ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming) council, in support of the state’s proposal to WICHE. “Participation in this task force will be transformative to the future of our state and has potential to change the lives of underrepresented students throughout Wyoming.”
Wyoming has specific priorities, which are: to develop a plan to achieve its attainment goals, take steps to develop a “college-going” culture in Wyoming, beginning in K-12 schools, and to find new ways to engage adults in higher education.
“Achieving our very ambitious attainment goal requires support from all across the public and private sectors in the state, and WICHE has recognized this cross-sector commitment by accepting our proposal,” UW President Laurie Nichols in a press release. “I’m excited about the synergies to be found in working with the two other states, as well as the support we’ll receive from WICHE to develop a policy agenda that will drive measurable change in our state.”
Nichols co-chairs the Wyoming educational attainment task force with the President of the Laramie County Community College, Joe Schaffer.
The initial meeting of the WICHE task force will be held on May 15-16 in Westminster, Colo.