Published March 2006
in growth mode
Everett Community College has set an ambitious goal for the next decade: transform its campus and further expand its educational programs to include increased access to four-year degree programs as well as its own baccalaureate degree.
The cost is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars for the bricks-and-mortar additions and renovations alone, with more money needed to fund the added programs. But the need cannot be denied.
For one, many of the college’s core academic buildings are almost 50 years old, said Michael Kerns, the college’s interim president.
“Our chemistry is taught in a lab that was built in 1958. Our core sciences except for biology are in buildings at least 30 years old, if not 50 years old,” said Kerns, who took the helm of EvCC in January after former president Charlie Earl was hired as executive director of the state Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Then there’s the need for more space.
For the fall quarter, EvCC had 10,000 full- and part-time students enrolled, averaging about 75 square feet per student, said Michael Kerns, interim president for the college. “We should be about 100 square feet per student ... so we’re overcrowded.”
According to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board, a growing student body will continue to put pressure on Snohomish County’s institutions of higher education.
In a draft of its “State and Regional Needs Assessment” published in October, the board noted that countywide lower-division enrollments were projected to increase from 15,829 full-time equivalent students in 2003-04 to 18,310 in 2010-11.
“However, if a higher percentage of people in the region elected to pursue higher education, an even larger increase in (full-time equivalent students) is anticipated,” according to the report.
Under EvCC’s 25-year master plan, the college expects a 60 percent increase in enrollment in the next 20 years.
“With the master plan, we have the capacity to grow for 16,000 students,” Kerns said. “The demographic trend line may actually be a little different, but with the growth prediction for Snohomish County, that’s basically what we’re going to need in the future.”
It includes purchasing 14 acres of property between Broadway and North Broadway, to first serve as parking and creating a “gateway” to the college, Kerns said. “In year 15 or 16 of the master plan, those become building sites.”
The first decade also calls for the design and construction of five new buildings as well as the renovation and upgrading of current structures.
“What we want to try and get done is replace and renovate every square foot of campus. That’s the goal,” Kerns said, noting that the price tag for the first 10 years of the master plan is estimated at $125 million, with most of the funding dependent on the state Legislature.
As for the five buildings to be added to the campus, EvCC has tailored them to the academic needs of the campus. These needs are determined by analyzing present program enrollment and predicted future program enrollment, the college’s own strategic planning effort, the needs of the community and the needs of industry as well as demographic data, Kerns said.
“It’s really a whole series of factors that conclude what our focus needs to be. The other piece of it is the condition of the facilities,” he said.Among the five new buildings planned for the first 10-year time horizon are:
During the 2005 state legislative session, the Legislature authorized the Higher Education Coordinating Board to assess the need for higher education in Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties, with an advisory panel created to study the need for a four-year educational institution in the region.
In December, an interim status report submitted to the board noted demand for baccalaureate and graduate degrees in business-related areas, computer science, social work, engineering, hospitality, nursing, allied health, project management, planning and special-education teaching.
While work is ongoing to bring a new university to the region, EvCC is working in parallel fashion to bring four-year degrees to the area now, Kerns said.
“Our role right now is to address the problem as soon as possible,” he said. To do that, EvCC is taking advantage of educational tools granted in HB 1794.
The legislation, passed by the state Legislature in 2005, charged EvCC with heading up the University Center of North Puget Sound — a consortium of state universities and colleges formerly administered by Western Washington University — with the possibility of moving it to the EvCC campus.
There are several good reasons for relocating the center from Everett Station to the college’s planned Undergraduate Education Center, said Christine Kerlin, interim executive director of the university center.
“One, certainly, is to share resources and to enable students to have more convenient resources that a campus normally has. The other is to improve the visibility of the options,” she said.
“If people are already students here and see university programs here as well, they begin to see the opportunities in an environment that they are already familiar with — and it is easy to talk to people about those options,” Kerlin said, noting that the move is dependent on state funding.
HB 1794 also authorized community colleges to contract with four-year institutions to offer university programs, and it set up a pilot program in which four community colleges across the state could offer their own baccalaureate degree.
EvCC is among six community colleges applying to take part in the pilot program, with a proposal to offer a bachelor of applied science degree in business development, said Hamid Eydgahi, the college’s vice president of instruction.
The degree, which was developed with input from the business community, would serve workers with technical degrees who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree and “pursue advancement into management,” according to the proposal.
EvCC will present its proposal in March, Eydgahi said. A decision by the state Board of Community and Technical Colleges is expected during the spring. All in all, it’s a very exciting time for the college, Kerns said.
“The headaches we have are headaches on how to make it better. It’s really about expanding access to education,” he said.
© 2006 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA