New community college gets an enthusiastic thumbs up

By ERIC STEVICK

Herald Writer

BOTHELL — On this campus, everything is new — the bricks and sinks, the computers and pavement, even the students and instructors.

When Cascadia Community College opened last week, Washington’s first new community college in more than 20 years, nearly 1,500 full- and part-time students had enrolled.

What the Legislature decided to create in 1994 to meet the region’s rapid population and business growth joined the ranks of institutions of higher education.

Cascadia and the University of Washington at Bothell share the buildings and the grounds. The first construction phase is expected to cost $197 million when it is finished by the fall of 2001. Future construction will depend on growth and new appropriations.

For many students, such as Erik Peterson and his wife, Anna Gonzales-Peterson, the campus is a place where east meets west — a midway point between their home in Monroe and their jobs in Bellevue and Redmond.

For Erik Peterson, 29, who attends classes there Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the location allowed him to return to the classroom.

On those days, he will commute from home to his mapping job in Redmond. On the way home, he will attend classes at Cascadia. His day, from home to work, work to school and school to home: 7 a.m. to 10:25 p.m.

"I know I need the education if I am to move to the next level (professionally)," Erik Peterson said.

Gonzales-Peterson, 34, an office manager for a printing company in Bellevue, plans to wrap up classes for her associate’s degree and eventually get her bachelor’s degree in business administration at the UW’s Bothell campus. She, too, is taking classes after work and on Saturday.

Beyond a location that fits their work schedules, they like Cascadia’s close affiliation with the UW because it allows them access to resources, such as the school’s vast library collection.

They figure they will be kindred spirits when they are home, supporting each other when they study. In fact, they reluctantly relinquished their 100 level Mariners tickets to Wednesday’s game because she had class, and he had homework.

Eighty-four percent of Cascadia students live within the Lake Washington, Northshore and Riverview school districts. Among that majority is Shawn North, a senior from Bothell High School who is taking high school and college courses simultaneously through the "Running Start" program.

North likes the feeling of walking the halls of the fledgling campus.

"I am going to college," he said. "That’s the feeling I get. I’m the first kid in the family to go to college."

And he’s not spending a lot of time on the road. Ten minutes, perhaps, far less than he would have had he gone to a community college elsewhere.

"Everything is brand new," he said. "I don’t have to worry about going into a classroom and finding a computer from the 1980s."

All told, there are 1,497 full- and part-time students at Cascadia. The college expected roughly 1,300.

The state set a goal for the new college to have the equivalent of 800 full-time students when it opened. Late last week, Cascadia had the equivalent of 938 full-time students, not including 134 high-schoolers in Running Start.

"It’s just a reflection of the need," said Jack Bautsch, Cascadia’s vice president for student success. "People in this area need something that is closer to them."

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