Cogswell College will close

  • By Eric Stevick and David Chircop / Herald Writers
  • Thursday, June 29, 2006 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

EVERETT – Declining enrollment will force Henry Cogswell College to shut its doors by September, leaving more than 150 students in the lurch.

The announcement dashed the dreams of Tom Kollegger, 48, a Boeing employee by day who was working on his mechanical engineering degree at night to advance his career.

The Bothell man doesn’t see how he can finish now. Few universities offer accredited engineering degrees, and the competition is fierce to get into the University of Washington, which has only daytime classes.

“There really is no good alternative that I can see,” Kollegger said. “There were a lot of people who are a lot closer than I am who are just beside themselves.”

The college offered degree programs in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, digital arts, computer science and business.

Many students have been paying $16,680 a year in tuition and have no guarantees they can get into another school.

Interim President Bill Pickens said the college is trying to help its students find ways to finish their degrees. It could be more difficult placing the engineering students, he said.

The college was losing students and money.

“It’s a great niche institution, but we have had these terrible enrollment declines,” Pickens said. “It’s a real shame that the community is going to lose this institution.”

Enrollment dropped from 220 in fall 2004 to 198 in 2005. It was projected at 156 for this fall.

Last year alone, the college lost $700,000, Pickens said.

Another loss of $1 million was projected for next year.

The college has 10 full-time faculty and 25 part-time employees, he said.

Henry Cogswell College is operated by the San Diego-based Foundation for Education Achievement. Its board voted to close the Everett operation last week. Faculty and students in Everett were informed of the decision Thursday. Letters are also being mailed to students explaining the decision.

“The foundation has been supporting the college for several years,” Pickens said. “It just doesn’t have the revenues.”

Small classes are what prompted Jeremy Ryatt to pick Henry Cogswell College over the University of Southern California and the University of Washington.

“It was the blessing of the school and the reason for its demise,” said the 20-year-old mechanical engineering student.

With a year left before graduation, and little time to apply for fall classes elsewhere, Ryatt said he isn’t sure what’s next.

He said he wonders whether everything possible was done to save the school and thinks the announcement should have come sooner to give students time to find alternatives.

Last week, students were sent an e-mail from the school’s administration, announcing a meeting on Thursday about the college’s future.

Digital arts instructor Joel Tennis said people with long faces walked away from the meeting.

“A lot of people are lost,” he said during a break in an audio production class. “They’re worried about their future.”

Some students said they aren’t sure whether their credits will transfer to other colleges or universities.

Christopher Forbis, a 21-year-old engineering major and student government representative, said administrators offered help with the transition. But the issue of transferring credits to other schools isn’t clear.

“They’re just talking and they haven’t promised anything,” he said.

Forbis said he has enough credits to graduate, but he wonders if holding a degree earned at a college that has closed its doors will hurt future employment and academic choices.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear that your alma mater is no longer, and I don’t know how it will affect me down the line,” he said.

David French, a 21-year employee of Boeing, is studying for a second degree in mechanical engineering.

The school offered a path for mid-career students to earn degrees while still holding full-time jobs, he said.

“It’s a loss for the entire region, because it’s the only accredited engineering program with classes at night,” he said.

The 43-year-old aerospace worker said finishing his degree now will be difficult.

Brian VanOrnam, 32, who is working toward his electrical engineering degree, said the closure throws off his family plans.

The disabled veteran works during the day for a solar energy equipment company in Arlington. He takes his courses in the evening.

His wife is also a student at the college, where she is getting ready to graduate with a management degree.

With a child on the way, Brian VanOrnam said he doesn’t know how he will finish his degree.

“It kind of put a lot of things on hold right now,” he said.

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