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Four-year college options explored
By CHARLIE BERMANT
Kitsap County writer
The possibility of establishing four-year degree programs in Kitsap County gained traction Thursday, following a meeting of a committee formed to study the idea and take the steps needed to make it happen.
The next step is to go out into the community and show what we have put together, said former South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who is working as a project consultant. We want to hear what residents of Kitsap think and what they would like to see, how supportive they will be of a four-year degree program in the county.
In tandem with community outreach, the committee is advocating a study by the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board (HEC) that will determine the specific education needs and how a degree program would meet them.
HEC Executive Director Ann Daley addressed the group, saying its purpose is to develop a strategic master plan for the higher education for the state, implementing strategic concepts that will raise the level of educational attainment among our citizens.
Because the specific study is still unfunded, 26th District State Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) urged attendees to lobby their legislators to provide financial support.
In the budget process the squeaky wheels get the grease, Kilmer said. All of the Kitsap legislators are on board with this idea, but it is important that you contact all of them and tell them you support this. You should also contact the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees. This is the best way you can get involved right now.
Kilmer said the establishment of a four-year degree program represents a smart investment in the countys economic future.
There is a real opportunity for workers and employers in Kitsap County if we can get some traction on this issue, Kilmer said. We need to evaluate the need and find the most appropriate way to address this need, and let it be known this is a priority.
A local four-year degree program wont necessarily incorporate aspects of normal college life. There will be no formal University of Kitsap and no student newspaper or football team.
There may not even be a campus, only a small central location that provides administrative support.
This fragmented structure will become possible through the use of distance-learning technology and the fact that many attendees will attempt to incorporate higher education into their already complicated lives.
I dont want the people who are middle-aged or older to be left out of this process, said committee member Nancy Nystrom, a University of Washington professor who lives in Illahee. The opportunity to go to college should extend to them. Im one who didnt start college until I was 44, went straight through and got my Ph.D. at 52 and had a full career. Ive talked to so many local residents who say that if there were a college here it would make them so happy. Think about career changes, and the things they could never do before.
While the options are open, the four-year degree program would probably not be wholly hosted at the Olympic College campuses, according to Olympic College trustee Pete Crane.
The mission of any community college is open enrollment, Crane said. It is a place where anyone can go to take courses, to make a transition into higher education. Some of them get four-year degrees and some do not. Having said that, the other mission of Olympic College is to meet the needs of the community. If the community needs four-year degrees in nursing which we now provide or in some other field, we will do this is we can.
Our preference is for someone else who does this for a living to come in and provide the degrees using their professors and their programs, he said. We could provide the degrees, but would only do it if it was a last resort.
In a familiar theme, Crane points out the process depends on the bottom line.
We need to be able to find a way to provide four-year degrees without soaking the taxpayer, he said.