In a significant boost to its educational initiatives, Washington State Community College has been awarded a substantial grant exceeding $2 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s federal Title III funds. The grant, spanning the next five years, is earmarked to facilitate the creation of innovative academic programs, revamp curriculum in alignment with industry demands, and expand the scope of Workforce and Career Services, building on the success of the institution’s Guided Career Pathways initiative.
The grant falls under the Strengthening Institutions Program, a vital component of the U.S. Department of Education’s strategy to empower colleges and universities in their mission to serve low-income students. The funding is designed to fortify academic quality, enhance institutional management, and ensure fiscal stability.
President Vicky Wood highlighted the college’s strategic approach, emphasizing the continuation of successful projects initiated since 2017. “Since 2017, we have been committed to transforming the student experience using the Guided Pathways framework. We have focused on dismantling barriers that stand in the way of our students’ progress and developing innovative solutions to increase their success,” Wood stated.
Washington State Community College has been proactive in fostering student success, offering free services such as tutoring, mental health support, financial education, and a food pantry. With a portion of the newly acquired funds, the institution plans to further these principles by establishing career learning communities, enhancing student engagement and motivation around common career objectives.
To improve communication and support throughout students’ educational journeys, the college will implement Customer Relations Management software. This technological addition aims to provide data and predictive analytics, enabling staff to offer personalized support, academic guidance, and career services.
In line with workforce projections in the region, the college will introduce new academic programs, including occupational therapy assistant and physical therapy assistant degrees. Additionally, the existing process technician one-year certificate program will be expanded into a process engineering technology two-year associate degree.
President Wood emphasized the impact of these additions on the local economy, stating, “The addition of these degrees is based on regional workforce projections. Our students will graduate and immediately be able to move into good-paying, in-demand jobs. That’s not just good for our students; it’s good for our economy.”
The funds will also be allocated to bolster career-informed academic enrichment, increasing opportunities for clinical experiences, practicums, and internships. Collaboration among faculty, staff, and program advisory committees will be a focal point to integrate industry-driven career skills into program and general education courses.
President Wood underlined the importance of investing in faculty and staff development. “Investing in their professional development will help us integrate career skills throughout our curriculum, which will enable us to close equity gaps and strengthen career advising and support services,” she stated.
With this significant grant, Washington State Community College aims to continue its trajectory of student-centric innovation and contribute to the growth and development of its community through education and workforce preparation.