Spokane Higher Education Enrollment

Greater Spokane, Inc., is formerly known as the Chamber of Commerce. On their Higher Education page, they boast that:

“The Spokane Region offers a diverse group of higher education institutions, with nearly 70,000 students enrolled at community colleges, regional and research universities and two nationally recognized private schools.”

Actual screen capture of the above:

Since 25% of the local population is below the age of 18, that suggests 70,000 of the 360,000 adults here are enrolled in college right now – or about 19 1/2 percent of the adult population. Hmmm … that doesn’t seem likely, particularly since only about 27% of the adults in the Spokane MSA have a 4 year degree.

The GSI claim is perplexing because their own web page lists the enrollment of the local public and private colleges and that adds up to 31,230, not 70,000. The real number is actually a decent number to boast about – so why the exaggeration? Further, the local colleges and universities are excellent. Washington State University is a world-class research university and Eastern Washington University was named by Newsweek as “Best value for the tuition dollar” nationwide.

Where the 70,000 estimate comes from is anyone’s guess – this probably adds in Washington State University – Pullman, 85 miles away, WSU-Tri-Cities, Columbia Basin College in the Tri-Cities (150 miles away), and Whitman College in Walla Walla, and probably the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID (93 miles away). And including those in the total would definitely be expanding the concept of the “Spokane region”. This is likely the case since Greater Spokane, Inc., includes organizations in the Tri-Cities (150 miles) and Pullman (85 miles) and Moscow (93 miles) as part of the Spokane research and development group.

Unfortunately, Spokane has limited research university capability (as compared to the presence of a comprehensive research university). Research is not a focus of EWU or GU; only WSU-Pullman is a comprehensive doctoral research level university, and WSU-Spokane has programs in only selected areas. (All of these excellent schools, by the way.)

The 70,000 estimate may be a left over from an older edition of the GSI web site that said the Spokane region had an astounding 18 colleges and universities (it does not). What they were doing was including community colleges, public and private colleges and universities, even private x-ray technician schools in about one third of the state – ranging from Spokane to the Tri-Cities to Pullman (and even including the nearby University of Idaho, in Idaho) to Couer d’Alene, ID. They dropped reference to the 18 colleges.


One Response to Spokane Higher Education Enrollment

  1. I was involved in the original development of a higher ed information piece produced by the then-Chamber of Commerce. It served as the basis for the copy you cite.

    The 70,000 figure includes the student population within a two-hour radius of Spokane. The economic development mission of Greater Spokane Incorporated includes this larger area, not just Spokane County. This radius picks up WSU Pullman, UI Moscow, and the higher education corridor in Coeur d’Alene; it doesn’t include schools in the Tri-Cities region.

    Barb Chamberlain
    Director of Communications and Public Affairs
    Washington State University Spokane

    Facebook: http://www.spokane.wsu.edu/fb

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