Azrael Howell, then president of the Everett Community College student body, leads a training session for a group of potential student mentors in July, 2015 at the college’s north Everett campus. (Mark Mulligan/Herald file photo)

Azrael Howell, then president of the Everett Community College student body, leads a training session for a group of potential student mentors in July, 2015 at the college’s north Everett campus. (Mark Mulligan/Herald file photo)

Editorial: In teaching students, EvCC built a community

By The Herald Editorial Board

There were some hard feelings among neighbors when Everett voters directed the city school board in 1941 to turn the newly built Lincoln Elementary School over to what was then Everett Junior College.

The fledgling post-secondary program had shared the school with elementary students at first, according to a recently published history of the college by author Tomas Gaskin, who taught history at Everett Community College for 37 years before his retirement, as The Herald’s Eric Stevick reported Friday. But space became a premium, with some classes held in Army barracks trucked in from Paine Field.

The neighborhood’s children would lose their school to the college kids, but fortunately for Everett and north Snohomish County during the past 75 years, voters saw the need for college programs in the city and understood the potential benefit not just for students but for a growing city’s culture, economy and community. It has helped train employees in industry and scores of fields, developed leaders in business and government and fostered the creativity of artists.

Those 75 years will be celebrated with a public reception Wednesday at Everett Community College’s north Everett campus.

The college moved to its current location in 1958, with steady growth at that campus becoming a boom in recent years, including more than $150 million in new construction, which includes the college’s first residential hall with three- and four-bedroom apartments for 132 students that will open this fall.

Adding to that campus growth has been the addition of Washington State University’s North Puget Sound and its University Center, which will open its first campus building Aug. 15 and begin classes there the following week.

Everett Community College, its trustees, officials and others deserves much of the credit for preparing the way for WSU. Everett Community College launched the University Center program 10 years ago, which partners with the state’s regional universities to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Everett, then handed over administration of the program and welcomed WSU as a neighbor and partner in 2014.

Throughout, the college has kept focus on its more than 19,000 students in associate degree and technical certificate programs, and will graduate more than 2,500 this year, 350 who will participate in commencement this Friday. While not quite A to Z — accounting to web design — EvCC offers scores of programs in nursing and health sciences, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, the arts, business and applied technology, communications, social sciences, math and its university transfer degrees.

During the next five years, Washington state will see nearly three-quarters of a million job openings, but less than 150,000 of those will be available to those with at best a high school diploma. The bulk of those jobs will go to those with post-secondary educations; 260,000 to those with bachelor’s degrees and higher, and 330,000 to those with associate’s degrees and technical certificates from community and technical colleges. according to estimates from Washington Roundtable.

And with U.S. student loan debt now totaling $1.3 trillion, students rely on community colleges such as Everett and its sister community college in Edmonds, to get an affordable education that’s less likely to mire them in debt.

Now more than ever, the college’s slogan, “Stay close, go far,” makes clear its importance to students of all ages, those beginning post-secondary study and those looking to continue their education or get training for a new career. More than a third of the college’s students work while going to school, a fifth have spouses and/or children and more than half are the first generation in their families to attend college, according to EvCC figures.

Some will go elsewhere for further college and careers, but many will remain because this is where they and their families live and this is where they work or hope to find work.

For 75 years, Everett Community College has made that possible for its students and for its city and the region.

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