Clark College opens 2012-2013 classes

Enrollment at two-year colleges reflects economic picture

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

Updated: September 24, 2012, 8:19 PM

 
photoBrody Vogue, left, and Sam Farra, both of Vancouver, look over a campus map on their way to journalism class on the first day of classes at Clark College in September 2012. Many students at colleges nationwide — including some at Clark College — are learning about money with Salt, a financial literacy program created by American Student Assistance.

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photoWith the chime tower in the background, students head for their classrooms Monday on the first day of the 2012-2013 academic year at Clark College. Almost 14,000 students are enrolled for fall quarter.

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If you go

What: Grand opening of Clark’s new Diversity Center.

When: 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Room 214 in Gaiser Hall, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

Thousands of plans were initiated Monday morning at Clark College; some were more detailed than others.

That was to be expected when nearly 14,000 people with a lot of different goals and life experiences started the 2012-2013 school year.

Some of the students finding their way around campus are teens whose higher-ed ambitions and career goals are a work in progress.

Gina Brown came to her first day at Clark from a different perspective, and with a daunting timetable.

“I’ll be here until the summer of 2016, taking lots of math and chemistry,” Brown said.

That’s just the prep work — getting the prerequisites out of the way so she can transfer to the University of Western States chiropractic program in Portland, Brown said.

All told, the 35-year-old mother of two figures to be in college for eight years.

While Yuriy Yarovenko is a 2012 graduate of Heritage High School, he has already started his career track.

“I’m studying nursing. I’m a caregiver at a nursing home,” he said. “I love helping, and it’s something I can see myself doing.”

Yarovenko’s career ambitions started long before his current job, he added.

“My mother was a veterinarian in Ukraine,” said the Clark freshman, whose family moved to the United States 10 years ago. He has seen hands-on health care for much of his life, he said.

A group of former Washougal High School students also represented a range of experiences and goals. Zac Scheep, a 2011 graduate and a member of the Army National Guard, said his military experience helped him focus on geospatial engineering. It includes working with satellite imagery, he said. “That’s what I did in the Army.”

“I don’t have anything interesting like that,” Brittney Cutter said. The 2012 Washougal grad said she’s keeping her options open.

That range of student backgrounds and goals is one of the great things about a community college, Clark President Robert Knight said after doing a quick survey of campus parking on his scooter.

“Clark welcomes all comers,” said Knight, whose scooter sported images of a penguin (Clark’s mascot) and flames on each fender. “Some (students) are working full time, or have kids, and have to squeeze classes in. Some can knock (their course work) out in a couple of years.”

Clark reported a head count of 13,927 students Monday; that’s down about 1,000 from the 2011 opening-day total of 14,989 students taking at least one class.

It continues a high-enrollment trend that started in the 2009 spring quarter, when Clark first reached 14,000 students.

“Historically, enrollment at community colleges increases during tough economic times, and we are still seeing the impact of the Great Recession on far too many lives,” Knight said in a news release.

“But we know that some of our students are now working” after retooling for new careers and upgrading their job skills at Clark College, Knight said. “It makes us proud to know that, because we’ve done our job, they are able to do theirs.”

Clark’s Running Start program welcomed more than 1,800 students for the first time. With 1,820 high school juniors and seniors taking college classes — up 9 percent from the previous year — Clark has the largest Running Start program in the state.

Financial aid continues to play an important role for Clark applicants. The college has received more than 17,100 applications, up 2.28 percent from the previous year. That’s about 3,000 more aid applications than students. Some who applied for aid didn’t receive it; others who applied chose other colleges or have decided not attend college right now.

Clark, which operates a few satellite buildings in addition to the main campus, was considered the largest single-campus community college in Washington during the 2011-2012 academic year based on full-time equivalent enrollment in for-credit classes at the end of the year.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.