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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: community college

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May 18, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Sunday story: Fewer dropouts, more degrees at Walla Walla Community College

At the end of spring quarter, student Cody Janett, left, and assistant enologist Sabrina Lueck help press caps on freshly filled bottles of Champagne in Walla Walla Community College’s viticulture and enology program. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

At the end of spring quarter, student Cody Janett, left, and assistant enologist Sabrina Lueck help press caps on freshly filled bottles of Champagne in Walla Walla Community College’s viticulture and enology program. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

WALLA WALLA — With its picturesque main street and pleasant, tree-lined neighborhoods, Walla Walla was recently named the friendliest small town in America.

The epicenter of a celebrated wine industry, its All-American atmosphere also harbors a soul that’s ambitious and entrepreneurial.

It’s an attitude that extends to the local community college, too. So when Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) took a hard look at the number of students it was losing every year — students on the verge of completing their degrees, but who instead simply drifted away — administrators knew they needed to take action.

Why did students quit?

Why didn’t they transfer to four-year colleges, or finish the credentials that would add heft to their résumés?

The questions, while vexing for college leaders, were not new, or even unique.

Nationally, only about 40 percent of first-time, full-time students at community colleges complete a degree or transfer within three years.

Go here for the full story.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: community college, higher ed, Walla Walla

May 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Guest: How to land a high demand job with a low cost degree

cindy

Cindy Zehnder

With the end of the school year just around the corner, thousands of Washington high school students are focused on what is next in their lives once they’ve tossed their tasseled caps into the air.

Fortunately, the educational pathways to a living-wage job may be shorter and less expensive than they realize. The challenge is making sure students know about and connect to these abundant education options within our community and technical college system and licensed private career schools.

Turns out, it’s not how long you’ve studied but what you’ve studied that counts in the job market. Those who pursue short-term degrees in high-demand areas are being rewarded with living-wage jobs in our state. And they can reach those well-paying jobs faster and more efficiently (and often with less debt) than longer, less-focused educational paths.

For example, students in a two-year aviation maintenance technician program at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood earned $37,000 on average their first year out of school. Those who completed a nine-month bookkeeping program at North Seattle College earned $33,000 that first year.

These middle-skill jobs are growing throughout our state. But they have sometimes been overlooked by young people charting their next educational step. It’s only now in the aftermath of a shifting economy that these critical mid-level occupations in manufacturing, healthcare, IT and other growth areas are gaining the exposure they’re due.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Cindy Zehnder, community college, higher ed

February 20, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Honors program coming to Pierce College in the fall

A community college honors program that aims to make the two-year degree a more reliable springboard to a selective university will be offered at a Western Washington college starting this fall.

Pierce College, one of the 34 public community and technical colleges in the state, will debut the American Honors Transfer Network this fall, becoming the fifth community college in the country to offer the program. It is also offered at Community Colleges of Spokane, which was one of the first schools to pilot the program.

The program describes itself as “the first national pathway program of its kind.”

It starts with a rigorous two-year program of study at a community college. Students who graduate then have a good chance of being admitted to public and private universities that are part of the American Honors transfer network.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: American Honors, community college, military