GRCC strong presence in town

Despite the economic downturn, Auburn-based Green River Community College and its branch campus in Enumclaw are in good shape, President Rich Rutkowski told a group of community and business leaders.

Rutkowski’s comments came during a May 20 breakfast meeting on the Enumclaw campus. He then prompted audience members to return the favor, asking Mayor John Wise and representatives from Helac, Mutual of Enumclaw, The Courier-Herald, Enumclaw School District, U.S. Bank and Enumclaw Landscape to give him a sense of how things are going in the community.

“I’m very interested in what’s going on in the neighborhood here,” he said.

Green River is one of 33 community colleges across the state, all seeing their budgets slashed. Rutkowski said his school’s $3 million shortfall will be offset by a 7 percent tuition increase in both the first and second years of the biennium. But, he added, despite the reductions, Green River will complete construction work and open its Kent campus and has also seen an increase in its student population. Some of those heading to GRCC’s campus are people who are out of work and headed back to college to learn new skills or launch alternative careers.

He said Green River is not immune and will have to lay off some of its own employees and reduce services.

One area where community colleges could use financial help, Rutkowski said, is with its Running Start program, which brings 1,000 students to the GRCC campus. Thirty high schools and 15 school districts offer Running Start. GRCC enrolls more Running Start students than any other community college in Washington.

Running Start allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes at community colleges and earn dual credit without paying tuition, but the program is underfunded. Colleges are reimbursed for 60 percent of a Running Start student’s tuition. At GRCC, that’s a $2.7 million gap per year and the college can’t count Running Start students toward its total enrollment numbers, which are the basis for state funding.

Rutkowski also highlighted three of GRCC program’s thriving – its teaching program, with its ties to Central Washington University; its aviation program; and a natural resources program that targets veterans.

Despite the need to cut some sections due to budget reductions, enrollment on the Enumclaw campus has remained constant, reported Diane Anderson, Enumclaw campus branch manager.

She noted the Enumclaw campus served approximately 290 credit students for fall, winter and spring terms with the high-demand for-credit courses continuing to be math, Spanish and English. Computer applications, dance and gardening lead the way in non-credit courses. She’s also seeing an increase in classes like flagging, barista and bartending as folks look to supplement their incomes in trying economic times.

In the fall, two pre-fall credit courses, Study Skills 106-College Survival and PE111-Aerobic Walking, will be available. The study skills course, Anderson said, has been offered the past two years with success.

In its liaisons with the community, Green River continues an alliance with Enumclaw High School to provide highly motivated, capable students with a more rigorous course of study during their final two years of high school. In her presentation, Anderson explained that the Early College Co-Hort program includes dual-credit courses intended to provide students with their high school diploma and 63 credits toward their associate of arts degree, while allowing them to return to high school by third period. A number of White River students are also participating in the program this year.

She also noted the Small Business Assistance Center continues to work with economic development and support of Enumclaw businesses by providing no-cost personal counseling and free workshops to help merchants achieve their potential.

The SBAC has seen an increased demand in services and so far this year has provided 35 clients with 56 counseling sessions and $150,000 in secured loans.

The college will also work with the Enumclaw School District and GRCC Foundation to continue its Summer Math Blast elementary school tutoring program. The session is scheduled to take place on the Enumclaw campus July 13-30.

Anderson said the college also hopes to continue its successful Transitions Workshop, a free three-week class to assist divorced, widowed and separated or under-employed individuals learning skills and assisting them with job placement and training options.

Other community events GRCC students participate in are concerts at the Living Court assisted living facility, the annual drive-in movie at the Enumclaw Expo Center and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce’s candidates forum.

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