From Washington Guide 2021

Focused on Excellence

Washington’s community and technical college system meets the needs of industry with Centers of Excellence.


Home to 34 community and technical colleges, Washington’s higher education institutions are training the workforce and meeting employers’ needs across the state. With more than 337,000 students, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) is the largest public higher education system in the state. 

Washington’s community and technical colleges are affordable with tuition at just $4,127 a year for a full-time student. In the 2019-2020 academic year, more than 27,700 associate’s degrees were awarded across the system. The Evergreen State’s community and technical colleges contribute significantly to the state’s higher education. In fact, 58% of students in Washington’s public colleges and universities are enrolled in a community or technical college. Additionally, 39% of public baccalaureate graduates in the state started their academic career at one of the state’s community and technical colleges. 

For companies, this robust network of institutions serves a key role in meeting workforce and talent needs. One of the system’s best assets for industry is The Centers of Excellence. SBCTC operates 11 Centers of Excellence at community colleges across the state. The state’s Centers of Excellence are vital to connecting business, industry, workforce and the state’s higher educational institutions to prime the state’s talent pipeline. Each center focuses on a targeted industry driving growth in the state’s economy. The Centers of Excellence are built on a reputation for quickly developing flexible, high quality education and training programs. The centers are guided by industry representatives to build a competitive, job-ready workforce.

The following community colleges house at least one Center of Excellence specializing in a specific industry. 

  • Everett Community College: The Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing; The Semiconductor and Electronics Manufacturing Center of Excellence 
  • Walla Walla Community College: The Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence 
  • Yakima Valley College: The Allied Health Center of Excellence 
  • Centralia College: The Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy
  • Renton Technical College: The Construction Center of Excellence 
  • Green River College: The Washington State Center of Excellence for Careers in Education
  • Highline College: The Center of Excellence for Global Trade and Supply Chain Management
  • Pierce College: The Center of Excellence for Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Bellevue College: The Center of Excellence for Information and Computing Technology
  • Skagit Valley College: Northwest Center for Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology 


Seattle Colleges: Model of Access to Higher Education


Seattle Colleges is Washington state’s largest college district, with more than 41,000 students enrolled annually. Composed of Seattle Central College, North Seattle College, South Seattle College and five specialty centers, Seattle Colleges offer more than 130 workforce education and training programs leading to bachelor’s degrees in high-growth industries, associate degrees in various disciplines, certificates in professional-technical programs, and transfer degrees to universities throughout the United States.

Seattle Promise, launched in 2018, is a partnership with the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning and Seattle Public Schools. Seattle Promise provides tuition and funding for school-related expenses to eligible students in need and offers individual guidance from high school through a student’s first two years of college regardless of GPA, income, ability or country of birth. The program covers any remaining tuition balance at one of the Seattle Colleges after other public funding, grants or scholarships a student may be eligible to receive have been applied. Initially the program was open to six target Seattle Public High Schools, but in 2020 graduates from all 17 of the city’s public high schools were eligible to apply. 

Over the summer, Seattle Promise was expanded to address the impacts on students during COVID-19 and new partnerships with the University of Washington and extended tuition and program supports at Seattle Colleges. The transfer program will provide an academic experience at the University of Washington for Promise scholars the summer before their second year of the Promise program, giving students the opportunity to explore a new discipline, improve their research and writing skills, and be exposed to different academic and career planning resources.  

“The University of Washington and Seattle Colleges have a shared commitment to educational equity and the public good,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the University of Washington. “Deepening our existing partnerships is a natural extension of this mutual goal. Through this work, we are continuing to remove barriers that impede educational opportunities for students and to build in their place bridges that help students find their way.” 

As the No. 1 state in the nation, Washington’s economic strengths continue to earn top honors and attract new investments.

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