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Peninsula College grows

Peninsula College grows

by AMANDA WINTERS

Sequim Gazette

Aside from gaining several new buildings, bachelor's degree programs and a beautiful new landscape over the past four years, Peninsula College also is gaining students by the hundreds.

In November 2009, Peninsula College had 3,944 students, President Tom Keegan said. On the same day this year, the college had 4,263 students.

While the amount of credits varies per student, the number of full-time equivalency (FTE) students has shown a dramatic increase as well.

According to the numbers provided by Keegan, Peninsula College's full-time equivalency enrollment increased 35 percent between 2007-2010, from 1,266 to 1,721. The amount of FTEs at a community college helps determine how much funding it receives, Keegan said.

Downward economy, upward enrollment

Keegan attributes the increase mostly to the economy.

"When the economy goes down, community college and technical school enrollment increases," he said.

Though the increase is seen mostly in retraining efforts for adults, there also has been an increase in 18- to 22-year-old students.

"That's an uncommon trend compared to historical enrollment patterns based on the economy," he said.

As tuition increases at universities and Peninsula expands its programs, parents and students are seeing there is an opportunity for a first-class education without leaving the area and paying university tuition rates, he said.

Tuition has increased at Peninsula as well, up 7 percent this year and 7 percent the year before. The increase, which is set by the state Legislature, concerns Keegan.

"My concern is we are closing the doors to the very people who have only community college as an option," he said.

Keegan said it is important for Peninsula College's leadership to be strategic in their planning so they are ahead of the demographic trend data and to work with employers to identify training needs before and after they arise.

New construction

Construction crews continue to work on 61,750-square-foot Maier Hall, which is replacing four older buildings. The $36 million hall will house the fine arts and liberal arts classes beginning in fall 2011, Keegan said.

Part of the Maier Hall project was the construction of an artistic representation of seven prominent peaks in the Olympic Mountains. The project, called "The Commons," was constructed behind the Pirate Union Building between the Science and Technology Building and Maier Hall.

Aluminum and basalt representations of the Olympic Mountain peaks sit in several pools of water.

The Commons was designed by Sue and Pete Richards and paid for by money set aside for an art project. The Legislature requires at least 0.5 percent of funds for a capital project be used for an art project.

The money was saved from the funds for the Science and Technology Building, Administrative Building, the new $14 million library and Maier Hall, Keegan said.

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