Unleash the power Unleash the power Unleash the power

We need collective action to realize the potential for higher education to be a force for good.

By Ana Mari Cauce and Sue Cunningham | Illustration by Anthony Russo | December 2022

In an era of declining trust in traditional institutions, higher education is no exception. As alumni, we know the value of our institutions and yet, sometimes the true value of what they contribute to our world gets lost in the noise of our polarized society. We can change that by working collectively to unleash the incredible power of higher education to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

With the help of alumni, the UW has proven that colleges and universities can tackle big challenges. We must seize the opportunity to translate that success on a national and global scale for the good of higher education as a whole.

Washington state has a long history of combining voices to make a difference. The UW’s “Yes, It’s Possible” campaign, in partnership with Washington State University, was a tremendous success thanks to alumni advocacy through UW Impact. You proved that across the political spectrum, people can agree that red and blue make purple! Advocates in 48 of Washington’s 49 state legislative districts sent 2,500 constituent emails to their legislators. They were joined by the state’s other colleges and universities, including the outstanding community colleges, as well as the business community. This tidal wave of cross-sector support helped ensure the passage of the Workforce Education Investment Act and the Washington College Grant, which passed by a single vote in the state Legislature.

Because of engaged alumni who saw that they could make a difference, Washington state now provides arguably the most generous state financial aid resources in the nation. Just 47% of Washington’s college graduates left with student loans, with an average amount among the lowest in the nation.

This effort shows the power of a collective voice supporting higher education’s value and benefit to society, and it empowers universities to do even more to design and implement solutions to the complex and urgent challenges we face. The potential impact of millions of alumni across the nation and the world championing higher education would be profound.

The UW is partnering with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) to spearhead a movement to increase public support for the incredible impact created by higher education. Building on the successes in Washington, the “Discover the Next” campaign will enable colleges and universities to share and reinforce the benefits of higher education for individuals, communities and the world.

Discover the Next is a joint project of CASE, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The UW is a leader in this program; in the year ahead, we will be working together to amplify the voices of leaders, stakeholders and supporters like you to increase public awareness and support for the value of higher education.

As alumni, you are uniquely positioned to champion your alma mater. Your personal experience and continued engagement makes you powerful and authentic voices in the conversation. We invite you to join us Feb. 9 as we gather in Bellevue, Washington with esteemed corporate and civic leaders to launch Discover the Next. Learn how you can take part in this effort to advocate for the value of higher education by visiting https://www.discoverthenext.org/rsvp/ and registering for the livestream of the Feb. 9 event.

Our world faces pressing and complex challenges. We need the support of our champions and the public to unleash our full potential to address them. We invite you to be part of the movement.