Student Achievement Initiative

Purpose of the Student Achievement Initiative

The Student Achievement Initiative (SAI) is the performance funding system for community and technical colleges. The SAI marked a shift from funding only for enrollments to also funding outcomes. Its purposes:

  • Improve public accountability by more accurately describing what students achieve.
  • Provide financial incentives for colleges to increase the levels of achievement of their students.


Washington’s community and technical colleges serve a broad spectrum of learners, from adult literacy and high school completion students to adults with bachelor’s degrees seeking new careers and high school students taking college credit classes.

Our colleges serve a predominantly working class and low- income student population. The median age is 26, more than half are employed (full- or part-time), 35 percent are students of color (compared to the state population of 24 percent people of color), one-third are parents, and more than half attend college part-time.

In 2006, the State Board adopted the System Direction. The plan brought together the State Board's vision and principles, 10-year goals, Mission Study action plan, and policy focus to guide innovations and development, pursuit and use of resources, and measuring progress.

Its overall goal – to raise the knowledge and skills of the state’s residents by increasing educational attainment across the state – is a great challenge for all of higher education and especially for community and technical colleges.

The SAI is only one of many projects to address student success.

Achievement Measures

The college system partnered with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University to identify key academic benchmarks students need to meet to successfully complete degrees and certificates.

Rigorous data analysis found common achievement measures that, when attained, substantially improve a degree and certificate completion, regardless of demographic characteristics, academic program, entering skill levels, course load, or type of institution attended.

The categories of achievement measures:

  • Building towards college-level skills (basic skills gains, completing a precollege writing or math sequence)
  • First-year retention (earning 15 and then 30 college-level credits)
  • Second-year retention and becoming workforce- or transfer-ready (45 college credits)
  • Completing college-level math (passing math courses required for either technical or academic associate degrees)
  • Completions (degrees, certificates, apprenticeship training)

Reports and Data Tools

The SAI provides a framework to track and analyze student progress and success for several system-wide initiatives. SAI reports and data tools address key student success policy areas issues and allow colleges to benchmark themselves against other colleges in the system.

Student Achievement Reports and Data Tools

More Information

Background and History Student Achievement Initiative 2006-2011

Revised Student Achievement Initiative 2012

For more information on the history of SAI or for information related to the revised system, contact David Prince, policy research director, or 360-704-4347.


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