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Fall term begins at Clark College

Enrollment dip due to stronger economy forcing $2.6M in cuts

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: September 21, 2015, 6:02pm
3 Photos
for the first day of classes at Clark College Monday, September 21, 2015. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)
for the first day of classes at Clark College Monday, September 21, 2015. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Before Madison Seed and Madison Plummer walked away from their parking space Monday morning, each young woman paused to document the start of this new chapter in their lives.

“Got to take a selfie,” Seed said after her quick pose-and-click.

Seed and Plummer are among more than 11,000 students enrolled at Clark College for the start of the fall quarter. Both are incoming freshmen from Oregon — Seed is from Banks, Plummer from Newberg — who will be playing for the Penguin softball team. (They’re not commuting, Plummer said; they found a place about 15 minutes from campus.)

Softball practice starts today, Plummer said, so Monday was a chance to focus on the first day of class … documented by a few more self-portraits.

“I’ll probably be taking them all day,” Seed said.

Although official numbers are not available until after the 10th day of class, Clark began fall quarter with 11,187 students; that is 4 percent fewer than the first day of the 2014 fall quarter. The enrollment dip matches numbers throughout Washington and Oregon, college officials said, as a strengthening economy is putting more people to work.

Because of that eroding enrollment, Clark officials are proposing academic programs cuts of up to $2.6 million. The state supported the equivalent of 10,988 full-time students in the 2010-2011 academic year, when many people who’d been shut out of the job market focused on their education. In 2014-15, Clark College had 8,887 of those state-supported students: a 19 percent reduction.

Did You Know?

Clark College serves as many as 14,000 students per quarter, making it the largest institution of its kind in Washington.

The 28 proposed cuts announced last week would eliminate several departments or reduce sections in courses. The cuts are proposed in subjects that aren’t required for getting a degree, or in career fields that are oversupplied in this area, school officials said.

Big growth area

Clark is seeing enrollment growth in some areas, President Bob Knight said during a walk through the student union building. The Running Start program, which allows high school students to earn college credits while still in high school, has more than 2,200 students this fall. That’s a 14 percent increase from Clark’s fall 2014 numbers.

The Running Start students — who make up a fifth of the college’s enrollment — can mix and match their courses, and may even earn an associate’s degree at the same time they receive a high school diploma.

At 9 a.m., Mazy Steinbach was already done with the first day of her sophomore-level college classes. She was fueling up on some free coffee in the student life center before heading to Hockinson High School, where she is a senior.

And then, Steinbach said, “I go to work.”

Clark’s online presence grew by 5 percent this year, with more than 3,700 students taking e-learning courses.

Members of the Clark community who returned to campus Monday saw significant progress on the new Science Technology Engineering and Math Building, which broke ground last fall. Classes are scheduled to begin there in fall 2016.

Some work on the culinary area is also scheduled in the Penguin Union Building, setting the stage for a restructured and modernized Culinary Arts program. C-TRAN’s Bus Rapid Transit Project likely will bring some minor construction near the main campus.

The college is anticipating a transition on its five-person board of trustees. Mike Ciraulo, who is serving a 2014-2019 term, is leaving Clark County to become fire chief in Pendleton, Ore.

Community college trustees, who must live within a school’s service district, are appointed by the governor’s office.