Evergreen State College approves new school and will invest up to $2.1 million

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Rolf Boone / The Olympian

Calling it a historic motion, Evergreen State College’s Board of Trustees on Friday unanimously approved the college’s four-year Professional and Continuing Education School, a move the college hopes will address a major area of ​​concern. : student registration.

“The motivation is clearly enrollment,” President John Carmichael said of the planning and final approval of the school, which will offer a series of academic and professional development certificate programs.

Carmichael brought up college enrollment again on Friday, a topic he has touched on several times over the past few months. Total enrollment is about 2,000 students at Evergreen, up from more than 4,000 students about five years ago.

Some of this drop can be attributed to the absence day controversy, but other factors also exist, such as the drop in the birth rate during the Great Recession. That means higher education across the country is struggling with fewer traditional-aged students, Carmichael said.

But Evergreen officials believe they can tap into a relatively large market of older students who have earned college credits but have no credentials to prove. In Thurston County alone, the college estimates that 61,000 people fit that description.

Carmichael said some of the certificate programs will serve current students, transfer students and some are likely to enroll in the certificate programs and it will become a gateway to an undergraduate degree.

Some of the programs will roll out in fall 2022, followed by a full offering in fall 2023.

Areas of focus, according to Provost David McAvity: psychology, health and wellness; business administration and management; environmental solutions; integrated computing; interdisciplinary art, media and design; K-12 education, transformative justice and diversity, equity and inclusion.

It’s not a small business. The college is willing to spend up to $2.1 million in operating reserves for start-up costs, program and project development, and marketing. The college expects 500 full-time equivalent students within five years.

Trustee Fred Goldberg and the chairman of a finance committee associated with the proposal shared these benchmarks: the new school should generate enough revenue to cover its costs in fiscal year 2025, repay college reserves in full to the in fiscal year 2026 and make a profit (surplus) in fiscal year 2027, he said.

Goldberg has described himself as a serial entrepreneur who understands risk aversion.

“We have to be ready to change, understand and think about the risks as we go along, but there is definitely a need to change some directions in college because it’s pretty clear that enrollment is an issue,” he said. he declares.

Administrator Ed Zuckerman said he was initially skeptical but is now a staunch supporter of the new programs, saying they have the potential to not only improve the college but also create a rebound effect for other aspects of the college, including its reputation.

Nor does he believe that the establishment of the school takes the college away from the “Evergreen we all know and love”, the one that has been embraced by interdisciplinary education over the past 50 years.

The leadership provided at the senior management and board level has shown that we are not going to do this, Zuckerman said.

Perhaps no one has demonstrated the power of a certificate program better than administrator Miguel Perez-Gibson. He went through such a program to become a forestry technician, which later led him to Evergreen and its Native Pathways program and eventually a master’s degree.

“We incubate caregivers and people’s lives by creating access to lifelong learning,” he said.

Other people present at the meeting were invited to give their opinion on the proposal.

“It’s a big step to take, but if I were in their shoes, I would take it,” said Trygve Vandal, a student union representative on the council, who also called the proposal a “solid plan.”

“There is a cost to inaction,” he said.

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