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WWU classes may expand 4-year degrees at OC Poulsbo

Kitsap Sun, October 6, 2012 – Olympic College may expand its four-year degree options in Poulsbo by offering more Western Washington University courses if the university sees a favorable response from potential students.

Plans are still in the exploratory phase, according to Steve Swan, vice president of University Relations, but the Bellingham-based school is interested in expanding its presence on the peninsula, he said.

“We know that the peninsula is underserved and we have an interest in exploring the opportunities that exist and where we might be able to meet the needs of the people on the peninsula,” Swan said.

Swan and another Western representative met with Olympic College President David Mitchell, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and County Commissioner Robert Gelder last week.

Citing the central location of the Poulsbo campus, Mitchell said the meeting was the first step at introducing Western administrators to the area.

“They wanted to get to know the community better and sort of gauge community support,” Mitchell said. “I think they heard from the mayor, commissioner and myself that there would be tremendous community support.”

More members of the university’s academic leadership staff will meet at the OC Poulsbo campus later this month for a retreat. The visit will give them the chance to check out the area, Mitchell said.

Western is no stranger to Olympic College. Students can earn a bachelor of science degree in environmental science or a bachelor of arts degree in environmental policy studies through its Huxley College of the Environment, which is already connected to OC.

Previously, the university’s Woodring College of education offered courses for students to get a human services degree at the Bremerton campus, but in 2010 it scaled back its class offerings, instead moving toward an online course model. The decision was made after the university discovered many of its students were coming from the Olympic Peninsula, which made the commute to Bremerton difficult.

There’s no plan yet for what additional four-year degree courses Western could offer in Poulsbo. The university must first do market analysis on the area and research what the educational needs are of the community, Swan said.

Once programs are identified, OC is open to expanding its partnership with the university, Mitchell said.

“Our position is, as a policy from the board and myself, is to do what we can to increase access to baccalaureate degrees in this region,” he said. “At the meeting those of us from Kitsap made it pretty clear that we felt that the community would love to see a bigger presence.”

Mayor Becky Erickson echoed Mitchell’s sentiment, adding she was excited at the possibility that a four-year university was interested in expanding into Poulsbo.”If they’re interested in coming this direction we’ll do everything we can to have them here,” she said. “I’m just real pleased and flattered they’ve knocked on our door.”

Western leaders plan to meet soon to discuss the visit. They will work quickly to outline plans for conducting the research analysis needed to determine how the university should proceed, Swan said. Citing the “great relationship” the university has with OC, Swan said university leaders are excited about the possibility of expanding on the existing partnership.

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