College Degrees Awarded by Spokane Area Colleges and Universities

Below are charts of the college degrees awarded in Spokane.

Of the 50 degrees granted in Computer Science and Engineering in 2008, 49 were Bachelor degrees and 1 was a Masters degree. 9 undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering were granted. 118 Bachelor degrees were granted in the “Biological and biomedical” category plus 3 Masters degrees. (Source).

Update: 2010 degrees – 10 MS in Biology, 7 MS in computer science. At the undergraduate level, 93 in biology, 26 in general chemistry, 38 in computer/information science and 2 in “computer engineering tech”, 17 in electrical and comm engineering.

12 undergraduate degrees were awarded in computer science and 55 in biological and biomedical sciences. No Masters degrees in those subjects were awarded. (Source)

Data source:

I did not get the data for Washington State University-Spokane, which provides some Bachelors programs and several Masters programs.  The data I could get are for all of WSU: Pullman, Tri-cities, Vancouver and Spokane, not the individual campuses. I also did not get data for Whitworth University.

From GSI:

“With its strong base of research and academic resources, Spokane is concentrated on becoming a burgeoning center for information technology and telecommunications.”

Can you spot the strong base of research and academic resources in information technology and telecommunications? You may need to squint.

Bioscience is said to be the next big thing in Spokane – squint again!

Note that a grand total of just 4 graduate degrees in technical subjects were granted, with one in computer science and 3 in biological science.

Virtually all graduate degrees granted in the Spokane area are in Education, Business (M.B.A.), Nursing (M.S.N.) or Law (J.D.).

Here’s the distribution of all degrees in 1996 – the major change between 1996 and today is the much larger business major graduates.

Why is having graduate degree programs important?

A graduate degree is a major undertaking and provides advanced training in the most recent developments in the field, passing along knowledge that is required for practitioners to be able to extend their field of study.

Because a graduate degree is a major undertaking, such programs appeal to those with ambition (and also the financial ability and opportunity) to purse graduate degrees. Many of these students go on to take on leadership roles in their organizations.

Without a strong graduate education program in the innovation fields, the Spokane area loses its ability to innovate and grow 21st century industry.

And lacking graduate opportunities, ambitious recent college grads will not stay here – particularly when we look today at the large percentage continuing on to graduate educations. For example, at the University of California, Berkeley, 60% of year 2010 graduates in 4 year engineering programs have gone on to graduate school.  40% to 50% graduate program pursuit is common at many universities today, particularly in a “buyers” market that favors employers versus labor.

Until recently, graduate programs in several fields of engineering, including robotics, were offered by Spokane area universities. As of 2010, the only graduate degrees in science are the M.S. in computer science at EWU and the M.S. in Biology at EWU. Gonzaga and WSU-Spokane ended their graduate degrees in engineering and computer science. WSU-Spokane offers an M.S. in exercise science, which is intended, as best I can tell, primarily as a pathway into health care delivery services, probably physical rehabilitation and therapy.

These programs were ended because both the enrollment had declined as cutting edge industry left Spokane, and because of the State’s mandate to support primarily those field identified as active “industry clusters” for the Spokane region.

Top High Tech Companies in Spokane

Greater Spokane, Inc, is the local Chamber of Commerce. Their job is to market the local area to prospective business start ups, businesses that are expanding or relocating to Spokane.

Important Update to this Post

GSI hasa list of  Top High Tech Companies in Spokane, which is duplicated, below. When this was originally posted, from the GSI web site, the list had 50 companies on it, even though many were out of business, had moved, or were not even in Spokane. As of October 2011, GSI has updated the list. The original list of 50 companies has been cut down to just 20. 

3 of those 20 are advertising firms, although they do use tech in online advertising and marketing, and 2 are system integrators. These are not “high tech” in a Seattle or a Silicon Valley sense. In case you were wondering.

15 is quite a decline from the long claimed (and not updated in almost a decade) of more than 150 high tech companies in Spokane.

Here is the original text posting and the list of companies and errors on that list


The list is unfortunately out of date.

The following 9 companies on their list are no longer in business in Spokane or they no longer exist under the name given on the list:

  • Agilent (Closed Oct 2010)
  • A Perfect Web
  • Columbia Fiber Solutions
  • Data Mosaics
  • Getronics (Closed 2009)
  • Ideal Semiconductors (Web site no longer exists)
  • General Dynamics – Itronix (Closed Spokane operation in 2009)
  • Vivato (Closed in 2005)
  • ACW Solutions (no longer in Spokane)

About 25% of the companies on the list are no longer in business, not really tech firms, or not actually in the area.

(The above list inadvertently listed Isothermal Systems Research as closed. That was in error and occurred due to a confusing news report. ISR is very much in business although it has shrunk from its peak.)

Read more of this post

Largest Occupations in Spokane

With its strong base of research and academic resources, Spokane is concentrated on becoming a burgeoning center for information technology and telecommunications.

Let’s play “Spot the booming high tech and bio science sector in Spokane!

Before you get too excited (you are excited, aren’t you?) with the booming “Computer and Mathematical Science” sector be aware that this sector also includes computer support specialists and network admins. You can sense the excitement from the enormous number of jobs available (not!) and great pay ($17.85 per hour!). Read more of this post

Spokane’s Top Ten Employers

Note: Empire Health Services was purchased by for-profit Community Health Systems and is now known as Community Health Systems.

Data source: US Chamber of Commerce, from Market Fact Book 2008, Spokane Journal of Business.

Hmmm … notice a pattern here? 7 of the top 10 are basically the government, 2 are health services where an estimated 60% of their revenue comes from the government, and 1 is a retail grocery outlet.

This supports my thesis that Spokane is a two-class society – those that work in government, health care and education and earn salaries comparable to Seattle – and everyone else who earns much less.

There is anecdotal evidence that many of those in the government class (but not all) are unaware of the challenges faced by those outside the government class.

Allocation of Jobs in Spokane, by Category

According to the State of Washington “Current Employment Situation” report (available here) for the month of June 2010, there were 206,000 non-farm jobs in the Spokane MSA (which is Spokane County).

Of those, 38,800 were in the “Education and Health Services” category and 36,700 were in the “Government” category (Federal, State and local).

Therefore, 75,500 jobs are in the Government/Health Services/Education categories.

With 206,000 non-farm jobs, this means that as of June, 36.6% are in Government/Health/Education categories. (Some other posts on this web site refer to 37.7% – this value changes from month to month.)

Spokane is said to have a “diversified” economic base and this is promoted as a feature, unlike, I guess, Seattle, which has concentrations in aerospace, software, high-tech, insurance, manufacturing and so on.

Look at the following chart – can you spot the “high tech hot spot” in Spokane? All numbers are in thousands – e.g. 2.8 is 2,800.

I can’t spot it either.

Read more of this post

Does Spokane have a “vibrant, entrepreneurial” culture?

Off hand, I have not yet thought about that – but MetroSpokane has some hints, worth reading:

Which place is going to be more vibrant, entrepreneurial, and have a more secure future?

via MetroSpokane: Best Cities for Relocating Families – Spokane hits top 10. Note – the MetroSpokane blog shut down in 2008.

According to Prof. Richard Florida writing on his Creative Class blog,

The world’s 40 largest mega-regions produce two-thirds of all economic output and nine in 10 of the world’s innovations. With their massive scale and market size, mega-regions are becoming a key economic and social organizing unit of our time. (Update 2017: Richard Florida mostly admits he’s theories have been all wrong.)

He also suggests that rural area economic growth is dependent on fostering a “creative class” and that remote cities – like Spokane – can no longer depend on satellite manufacturing facilities of larger companies. What is needed is action to spur a creative and entrepreneurial class since manufacturing and tech sectors, as they existed, are gone for good.

Going back to the MetroSpokane post, the “hint” provided is that Spokane has lost its young, vibrant vitality as ambitious young people move to the hip, forward looking, coastal metro cities. The corollary is that a quiet, low change environment may be desired by retirees and those nearing retirement.

Question: Does Spokane have vibrant, entrepreneurial creative class like say, Seattle or San Francisco?

Update: More on the culture issue in this newer post.

Remedial mathematics at the college level after Spokane schools

A large portion of students who graduate from high school and go on to college end up having to take “remedial” classes in math or writing/grammar. This problem occurs nationwide.

According to this web site, Laurie Rogers (2010) says that 87% of students graduating from Spokane School District high schools who go on to attend Spokane Community College or Spokane Falls Community College are required to take remedial math courses upon entry (I’ve verified similar numbers from other sources).  About half of those then dropped out or failed the remedial class.

For most students, elementary algebra – or lower – was were they were placed based on the standard mathematics placement exam given to entering students. The linked web site appears to be about the school district’s process of choosing a new mathematics curriculum.


Rogers, L. (June 2010). “Remedial rates: Spokane’s big, dirty secret.” Retrieved July 25, 2010 from the Betrayed Web site:

Spokane Poverty Rates

While poverty has been decreasing in Washington State, in recent years Spokane County’s the poverty rate has been increasing. There is a relationship between high school drop out rates and poverty – also see “1 in 3 Spokane High School Students Drop Out“.

In these charts, the yellow line corresponds to the City of Spokane, the red line to the County, and the dark blue line corresponds to Washington State.

Data Source: Community Indicators of Spokane

Zoom in on the most recent years to highlight the problem:

Poverty and school drop out rates are related. Some interesting comments from retiring Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor Dr. Gary Livingston, here, in the Spokesman-Review newspaper (July 26, 2010):

We have to invest both in the students who are going through now – who didn’t come in ready to learn – and have to do it at a preschool level. So we’ll have to pay twice for a while, to help prepare students better. The (problem of not being ready for school) is a significant reflection of poverty in this area. And candidly, our community is getting poorer, not wealthier.

Read more of this post

Spokane Obesity Rates

  • 1 in 4 adults are obese (obesity is defined as BMI > 30)
  • 1 in 10 children are obese
  • Children with dental decay – 62%(2005)  up from 49% (year 2000).
  • Obesity rate in the State of Washington 25.4%.

Source: Spokane Regional Health District

Chart showing national obesity rates – this CDC chart is somewhat misleading in that it uses 0% to 25%, and then very narrow bands between 25% and 31% and then 31% to 100%. As best I can tell, Spokane’s obesity rate is about average for the country.

Source:  CDC

Spokane Schools State Report Card

Main school districts in the Spokane Metro Area are below. Click on the link to visit the State’s “report card” on the status of each district, and then within each district, you can check on the status of individual schools.

For each District, you will find a percentage passing rate for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) exam. This indicates how many students have successfully met the WASL standard, by grade, when the exam was taken.

Non-stop flights from Spokane International

Spokane International provides non-stop flights to 12 airports year round. 3 of the destinations are all in the SF Bay Area so its non-stop to 10 geographic destinations. The 13th destination is seasonal only.

SeaTac in Seattle serves 19 International destinations and 73 domestic airports.

The number of cities that can be reached via non-stop flights can impact the type of industry in an area. If your business requires travel by employees, clients or vendors to and from many locations in the U.S., you will want to locate in a city having a large number of non-stop destinations. Otherwise, time spent sitting in airports making flight transfers is potential down time for staff and clients.

Spokane International Airport handled more passengers in 1996 than it does in 2010. In spite of the lack of passengers, SIA is completing a $30 million extension to a runway and next year, another $30 million will be spent to remove a dip in a runway. The longer runway will, they say, enable the airport to serve more distant locations than it does today.

Spokane International Airport does not have any international flights.

Destinations reached non-stop from Spokane (embedded chart comes from but may no longer be accurate as of February 2011):

Is Spokane a High Tech Mecca?

Downtown Spokane web site (July 2010):

Spokane is already home to high-tech firms including General Dynamics, Cyan, Vivato, Telect and Itron. This clustering of mutually beneficial businesses provides a synergism that attracts businesses providing support services to help high-tech companies grow.

That would be a good description of “industry clustering” except that:

  • General Dynamics’ Itronix division in Spokane Valley, Wa, closed in 2009.
  • Vivato of Spokane Valley, Wa closed in 2006.
  • Telect laid off most of its 1,360 local workers and now employs 100+ 80 in Liberty Lake, Wa. (April 7, 2011, Journal of Business, page A17)
  • Cyan Worlds, located outside Spokane in Mead, Wa, has scaled back.
  • Itron moved to Liberty Lake.

Sadly, the “synergism” of “mutually beneficial businesses” has been broken as dozens have left the area or scaled backLess than 1/2 percent of all jobs, for example, involve creating software solutions. According to the Milkin Institute, Spokane ranks very low as a place to run a technology business.

Area promoters have stated since 2004 that downtown is home to 150+ technology-based businesses. It is unclear where the estimate comes from but it was first used and posted on the Fernwell Building web site in 2004 – and the 150 number has remained constant ever since.

Spokane Job Openings by Required Degree

The following chart shows the type of degree required for job openings in Spokane. Surprisingly, the demand for college degrees, especially advanced degrees, is very low in Spokane. In 2008 and 2009, the relative demand for advanced degrees increased. This occurred because of the overall economic downturn – employers have a “buyers” market which means that the most overqualified are more likely to get hired … and the least skilled were likely to get fired (they are also the easiest to replace when the economy improves).

Relative to the supply, in Spokane about 9-10% have an advanced graduate or professional degree – but job demand for such individuals is in the low single digit percentages. Similarly, about 20% have a 4 year degree but annual demand for such people runs between about 7% and 20%. Consequently, Spokane appears to have a more educated supply of labor than the local market demands at present.

Data Source:

Percent of Spokane Students Taking the SAT

In Spokane, the percent of high school seniors taking the SAT exam has fallen sharply in the past few years. Elsewhere, the number of students taking the SAT, nationally, reached an all time high in 2007 and again in 2008.

In 2009 in Washington, 53% of graduating seniors had taken the SAT but just 38% in Spokane had done so:

“Average combined scores for the US and Washington were 1,016 and 1,055 respectively. In 2009, 53 percent of Seniors in the State took the test. Over the last seven years, combined SAT scores in Spokane County have been 1-17 points less than the statewide average and 23-41 points higher than the national average.”

Data Source: This site, from EWU, is an excellent source of data.

Spokane Health Care Costs

As a regional health care delivery center, there are many providers of health care services in Spokane. But oddly, health care prices in Spokane are higher than the comparable city of Boise, and are higher than those charged in Seattle. Spokane’s health care prices are 8.3% higher than the national average.

Long term elder care in Spokane also costs more than in Seattle.

Source: 2010 Spokane Vitals

Spokane Incomes Compared to Similar Cities

The following chart is courtesy of the City of Boise. Cities generally pick similar sized cities to compare their own city’s economy. Spokane picks Boise as a comparable city, and Boise picks Spokane as comparable, therefore, the following data is relevant:

Some newer data might be the following from 2008 (but source not yet verified):

  • 2008 Spokane median household income: $41,588
  • 2008 Washington state median household income: $58,078

On a statewide basis, the average Spokane household income is 28% lower than that for Washington State.

What This Means
In Spokane, most government, health care and education workers earn salaries similar to those in more expensive cities on the west side of the state.

Most other workers, however, earn substantially less.

Spokane’s workforce seems split in to two worker classes – those in the core group of government, health care and education – and everyone else.

Read more of this post

Spokane Ranks Low for High Tech Business

The State of Washington has established a centralized, top-down, government managed economic plan known as “industrial clusters” – read the background here. Spokane has been identified for a handful of clusters other than high tech. A consequence is that critical support for a high tech eco-system has vanished.

The following two items are from the linked text on industrial clustering.

  • The Milkin Institute established a measure of a region’s capacity for “high tech” known as the “Tech Pole” rating. In overall tech, Silicon Valley ranks the highest at 100.0 (Seattle is 47) and Spokane ranks 0.5. As we dig down, in the area of Software, Seattle ranks 100.0 and Spokane ranks 0.01. In electronics, Spokane ranks 0.04. (See
  • Illustration of the lack of a tech ecosystem: In the entire Spokane region, there is only one Masters level technology degree – a single MS in computer science at EWU. There are no other technical or engineering Masters degrees or PhDs in the area.  In science, EWU also offers one Masters in biology, and WSU-Spokane offers an MS in exercise science.

The “Tech Pole” rating puts Spokane in a virtual last place position for conducting a high tech business. Spokane lacks a strong tech ecosystem necessary to support high tech businesses today. Read more of this post

1 out of 3 Spokane High School Students Drop Out

Yet one in three kids in Spokane drops out of high school, a ratio Spokane leaders call a “crisis,” and one that needs a plan of action.

via Levy would finance battle against Spokane high-school dropout rate – – Feb. 21, 2010.

According to discussion in the comments to that news article, with data sources cited, the on time graduation rate in Spokane schools has been getting worse in recent years. For the entire County, on time graduation rate is 70% in 2008 versus 77% for the State of Washington.

Spokane School District is said to have one of the highest rates of suspensions in the State and spends much more per student, than nearby Mead School District which has a higher graduation rate.

Read more of this post

Low Wages in Spokane and Housing Affordability

Many communities suffer from housing that is considered not affordable. In most cities this is because housing is too expensive for many buyers (which happens due to low cost credit that made homes available to those who would never be able to pay off the loan, creating housing bubbles).

Spokane, though, has a different problem – low wages – as described in this Spokane Housing Affordability report:

The equation for determining housing affordability is based on the price of housing and household income.  In many areas of the state it is the escalating price of housing that creates a housing crisis.  In Spokane, however, the housing affordability problem stems from the other half of the affordability equation — low household income.

I think what they are trying to say is that housing costs in Spokane really are low compared to other cities throughout the Northwest. Yet affordability remains low because wages in Spokane are surprisingly low.  Part of the reason for the low wages is because much of the job market demands low skilled labor.

Chart source: – data appears to be from US Census 2000:

Read more of this post

Major manufacturing and high tech employers close, leave Spokane

Since 2001, dozens of major companies have closed or significantly downsized their Spokane operations causing a loss of an estimated 20,000 high paying jobs (the estimate came from an old Spokesman-Review news article).

I estimate that about 70% of the job losses were due to moving factories and design centers off shore. Another sizable contributor is outside companies buying local companies and then shutting down the Spokane facilities or scaling the operations down. Some of this is related to the recent economic down turn but much is also related to huge changes in how companies do business – and offshoring.

(Update: This comment to an SR news story suggests the problem was that the local Agilent division was poorly managed and not building world class products. The comment after that one says the same thing. This could be due to local culture issues which might have plagued many of these firms – obviously, its not just Agilent that was lost here. More on our local culture and how that might not lead to creating world class products is here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

What happened – as explained on the “Start Here” page:

During previous recessions, national corporations sought to reduce their costs. One way they could do that was to move their manufacturing and related design engineering to a lower cost city some where in the U.S. – like Spokane. Recessions benefited cities like Spokane. But by 2001, as a new recession took hold, national and world-class companies had a new option – moving jobs outside the U.S. Consequently, the low cost of living in Spokane and its low wages, which were marketed as benefits of moving to Spokane were now usurped by cheaper locations off shore.

How Bad Were the Losses?

These two charts add context and put the losses into perspective

Important notes – Keytronics’ peak was in the mid 1980s, before moving all manufacturing to Mexico. Kaiser went from (news reports) of about 4,400 to 600 to 700 at Trentwood. Eggheads peak was in the late 1990s. The others peaked since 2001.

The blue column represents the “past” job total while the red column represents the “present” job total of the firms shown. We know that the blue bar should be 6,000 workers taller than it is, for example, and we know that we have not captured all newer jobs created in the red bar. However, from the Employment Security Department’s official data, there is a gap of at least 15,000 fewer jobs than a decade ago which confirms that the relative proportion of jobs shown is not far off the mark.

The next chart is the official ESD total of non-farms job in Spokane County. This chart is used to corroborate that the preceding data is “in the ball park”. As you can see from the chart and data table, about 15,000 jobs are missing from the peak.

(The number of farm jobs in Spokane is small. The ESD chart does not include active duty military and the self employed.)

List of Companies Closing in Spokane in Recent Years

Read more of this post