Dr. Suzy Ames, president of Peninsula College. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Suzy Ames, president of Peninsula College. (Submitted photo)

POINT OF VIEW: College-to-career pathways offered at Peninsula College

WHAT’S THE VALUE of higher education these days?

It depends.

There’s a lot of skepticism about this topic, and it’s warranted. Should students take out loans to pay $100,000 at a private university for a philosophy degree?

Please don’t.

But, what about a one-year certificate or two-year degree that leads to a great job in Clallam or Jefferson county? That’s a worthwhile investment. What about a two-year transfer degree that leads to a bachelor’s degree in engineering? Absolutely.

A certificate or degree can pay significant dividends.

Peninsula College is creating new college-to-career pathways that pay the dividends, and our students won’t have to drop $100K for an education.

In fact, PC students might not pay tuition at all. For students coming from a family of four earning less than $64,500, tuition might be covered. Students who ran out of unemployment benefits, divorced the breadwinner, or started a business that failed might qualify for Worker Retraining funding, which covers tuition, books and supplies.

Starting in fall 2023, Peninsula College’s reinvented Automotive Technology program will teach students to perform electric and internal combustion engine repair, diagnostics, and preventative maintenance — in just six months.

At PC’s Forks campus, our new Natural Resources program will train students in forestry and fisheries management — in just nine months.

Local employers desperate to hire trained workers collaborated with PC to design these new programs, and they will be lining up to hire our students after mere months of schooling.

Students who complete these initial certificates but want more training in their field can always return to PC. Local businesses are eager to support their employees, with many willing to pay tuition and give raises as their employees earn additional certificates or degrees.

For students preparing for careers that require four-year degrees — think engineering, software development, or education — Peninsula College offers small classes and lots of one-on-one time with instructors. Once PC grads transfer to that big university, they’ll be comfortable and confident. Best of all, two years at PC costs a fraction of two years at a university.

Of course, certificates or degrees are worth more when completed. Luckily, Washington state’s community colleges rank No. 1 in the country for students successfully transferring to a university.

PC matches this strong retention rate by supporting students with free tutoring, free tech help and internet hot spots, free counseling, free access to a food pantry, and low-cost childcare.

Nationally, fewer young people are choosing college as their next step after high school. In fact, there are 4 million fewer students in college than there were 10 years ago, according to the Hechinger Report. Social scientists point to a generation who question the value of college, expect instant gratification, and harbor concern about racking up debt.

Alarmingly, many of the high school students opting out of college are from low-income families and families that don’t have a lot of college grads. These are the kids who need college the most.

But I have hope for our community’s kids. And for our working parents. And for anyone ready for a better job and a brighter future. In a small town where word spreads quickly, the success of Peninsula College’s new graduates — who will soon be swapping out EV batteries and determining timberland log volume — will tell a different story.

Local employers are desperate for skilled workers. I think our community will answer the call.

________

Suzy Ames, Ed.D., is the president of Peninsula College. She started in this role in July 2022.

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