GHC takes input on Pacific County services

By Todd Bennington

New Grays Harbor College President Dr. Jim Minkler and other GHC representatives appeared at the college's Riverview Education Center in Raymond on Nov. 2, where they heard input on how GHC might better serve Pacific County Residents. A similar meeting was scheduled for Nov. 3 at the Columbia Education Center in Ilwaco.

Rebecca Chaffee, a GHC trustee and Pacific County resident, indicated that in the two decades or so since the inception of the Raymond facility, community participation at the center has declined, something she said she wishes to see remedied.

"I really hope that Grays Harbor [College] is totally willing to come into this community as a partner and work with us and do things, but it's up to us to step up to the plate and be that partner," she said, explaining that she hoped to identify items the community needs, which GHC can then work with the community on providing.

According to statistics provided by school officials, 423 students from Pacific County were enrolled with the college for the 2015-16 academic year out of a total of 4,033 unique students. 2,422 of the college's students came from Grays Harbor County during that period, according to the same statistics.

Among the suggestions heard from those in attendance on Nov. 2, as to what they would like to see offered or offered more broadly in the northern Pacific County area, were the following:

  • More homebrew and/or microbrew classes
  • Adult Spanish classes
  • Shirt design/shirt printing
  • Basic business skills
  • Basic ethics and professional attire/interview skills
  • Daycare provider training/early childhood education
  • Transportation to or increased availability of cultural enrichment programs, such as theatre and musical performances
  • Cabinetry and furniture building
  • Reviving a lifelong learner adult education program for which state funding has been discontinued
  • More advanced computer skills courses/web design/and computer courses for those over 50 years old
  • More ITV (interactive TV) classes offered to facilitate students studying remotely
  • An English Language Acquisition "boot camp"
  • Physical fitness or health-oriented classes for the community
  • Nutritious cooking on a budget
  • Partnering with local entities, such as chambers of commerce and the economic development council
  • Classes and resources for those seeking citizenship

Minkler indicated that the suggestions heard will be taken into consideration and college officials will look at how they can act upon some of them. The suggestions made will also inform decisions when it comes to seeking grant funding and discussions of college and community needs with state legislators, he said.

Among the programs already on offer through the college are three new four-year degree programs in the fields of Forestry, Teacher Education, and Organizational Management. School officials said the programs have an emphasis on application rather than theory and were developed in close coordination with local employers.

An addition to academic college courses, school officials indicated other currently available courses offered through the college include personal enrichment non-credit community education classes, one-day guided travel "adventure" classes, customized jobs skills training for local businesses, a commercial food preparation program, flagger classes, and EMT training.

Popular among high school students are concurrent programs, such as Running Start, which allow for students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Currently, 37 Pacific County high school students are enrolled in the program, with the majority coming from Raymond High School.
Minkler acknowledged that the Running Start program, which involves students taking classes at college facilities, may not be a good fit for everyone, such as those who are heavily involved in school activities or are otherwise unable to travel away from their high school.

Advanced Placement classes are an alternative option for high school students seeking to earn college credit while remaining on their high school campus, Minkler said, but involve taking AP courses for an entire year in order to earn credit for one college class.

"The other option currently being offered in Pacific County is not by us," Minkler stated of a third alternative. "Grays Harbor College is not offering a college in the high school. University of Washington is. Central Washington University is. We would like to engage in conversations about that."

"We have a lot of professional development to do at our own college to be able to do that," Minkler continued of such in-school programs, "but we believe that some high school instructors have a Master's in the discipline or are not far away. And by engaging in conversations we can find out what additional credits they might need, graduate credits, to be able to teach college classes in high school, because we feel that would serve some high school students very well, too."

Minkler went on to clarify that GHC is not attempting to back away from the Running Start program but instead would simply like to add additional options.
Additionally, high school students may also potentially earn GHC college credit for certain technical or vocational classes taken at the high school level.
GHC officials also touted the value of four-year degree seekers attending a community college like GHC before going on to a four-year institution, saying it's a great way to save money. School officials noted a two-year AA degree can now be obtained through GHC completely online.

Assistant Dean for Transition Programs Diane Smith stated that another way GHC is interested in partnering with the community is through English language acquisition, GED, and the High School 21 programs. (High School 21 is a competency based GED alternative for those aged 21 and older).
"If you are connected to businesses and you have employees who have not finished high school, we would love to be that connection, so that while they're still working they can finish high school one way or another," Smith stated.

Both the GED and High School 21 programs are available online, she further noted.

Among the problematic aspects discussed in regard to providing classes to GHC satellite facilities were the issue of classes being cancelled due to low enrolment and the difficulty of providing qualified instructors. Generally speaking, instructors need teaching experience and an MA degree in the subject area they teach.
"Any help you can give in getting applicants makes our job easier in being able to offer person-to-person classes," said Vice President for Instruction Laurie Clary.

Minkler added that he thinks GHC may be able to do more in supporting those who are close to being qualified to teach at the college level become fully qualified to do so.

Minkler concluded by stating he hopes to conduct such public brainstorming sessions on a perhaps annual basis and that GHC officials are open to input from students, faculty, and community members on an ongoing basis.