Wenatchee Valley College is on the verge of being able to award a bachelor of science in nursing, President Jim Richardson told me in an interview, becoming the first bachelor's degree that a student can earn at the institution.
The college has been highly successful at training registered nurses over the years but the trend in health care is that the bachelor's degree is expected to be the standard entry-level position. It will be much more convenient and cost effective for RNs in North Central Washington to be able to take courses to complete that degree both in Wenatchee and at the Omak campus rather than traveling out of the area. Depending on state approval for the program, they could begin signing up students as early as next fall.
There are a number of other important developments happening at the college. They're starting a machinist program in place by the fall of 2014 as part of the industrial technology program. Alcoa was a key financial supporter in getting specialized equipment for the program, and Van Doren Sales and Pacific Aerospace were also instrumental in helping get the program designed, Richardson said. The two-year program will provide students with the kind of training to get living-wage work locally and also at big companies like Boeing. It's good news that the college is taking steps to integrate its programs with the needs of local industries.
The online courses offered by the school are also going to get a boost from a $2.1 million federal grant, which will provide support for online students trying to navigate through the complexities of the bureaucracy and at the same time will provide assistance for teachers in improving online courses. The school has more than 2,000 individual registrations for online courses, many of those by students who are also on campus, Richardson told me. They're find that a mixture of personal interactions combined with online coursework improves the success rate for students.
One of the great opportunities in North Central Washington is to improve upon the educational attainment level. Statewide, 10 percent of adults don't have a high school diploma, but that number skyrockets to 17 percent in our region. As for bachelor's degres, 20 percent of adults in the region have them, compared to 32 percent statewide.
Our community college is at the forefront of addressing those needs, but like other colleges it is hampered by a legislature that has reduced funding for higher education and allowed significant tuition hikes, making it much less affordable for individuals to get training that would lead to higher incomes. We simply have to make those investments in our future.
If you'd like to see my interview with Richardson, log onto wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.