Kirkland Chamber hosts discussion on higher education

As the cost of tuition for higher education increases, Kirkland and Bothell colleges are attempting to find ways to address student and parental concerns.

The presidents from Cascadia Community College, Northwest University and Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) discussed the future of education and how it is affecting the institutions during a Kirkland Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Aug. 14.

Dr. Jim Heugel, the provost at Northwest University, said one of the biggest questions being asked is whether or not college is regarded as worthwhile by parents. He stated that despite the recent increases in college costs, the amount the university receives from students has not changed.  The problem, he said, is that parents and students continue to expect better amenities and services each year.

He also mentioned student safety, particularly sexual assault, has become a frequently discussed topic and that colleges now engage in their own disciplinary process whenever there is an allegation of assault. As a result, students can be disciplined whether the police ever become involved.

Amy Goings, president for LWIT, said the institute is placing a higher priority on students obtaining credentials prior to graduation, as they give graduates higher chances for employment and better wages. Additionally, she said they need to stay connected to employers in order to know what type of jobs are out there and what qualifications are needed. One of the programs LWIT and other schools use is Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST), which combines college-readiness classes with regular academic classes.

Eliminating the need for remedial courses is also one way to cut down on unnecessary costs, according to Eric Murray, the president for Cascadia. He stated a smoother curricular transition from high school to college allows them to focus more on collegiate-level material.

Another topic was state funding. Although spending for K-12 education is mandatory, higher education is not. Additionally, community colleges receive funds through the legislature. The State Supreme Court’s McClearly decision in 2012, in which the court ruled the legislature was not spending enough on K-12 education, did not impact higher education. Kirkland resident and Rep. Larry Springer, who moderated the discussion, raised the idea of a constitutional amendment to extend the legislature’s responsibility to “K-14,” but no one openly endorsed or criticized the idea.

Murray went on to say ultimately students are responsible for their own personal motivation to succeed and that family support affects their development more than government funding.

“Success comes from family culture,” he said. “Without a family supporting a child, that child is not going to succeed, no matter how much money you throw at him.”

He also added that, “Merit is based on motivation. Students have to be motivated.”

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