After 40 years, college likely over on South Whidbey

Skagit Valley College will likely shutter classrooms on South Whidbey after teaching students in the community for 40 years.

Thomas Keegan, president of the community college, said years of funding cuts from the state combined with low enrollment at the South Whidbey Center led officials to make the tough decision, which hasn’t been finalized.

The chances are, he said, that the center will close at the end of fall classes.

“We want to ensure that the students are served, especially those on a degree path,” he said, explaining that staff will be working with those students on a one-on-one basis. “We’re committed to serving students in the South Whidbey area.”

Keegan said the Whidbey campus in Oak Harbor will be able to provide students from South Whidbey with more services — such as tutoring, academic counseling and veterans outreach — as well as a larger diversity of classes. He said the college hopes to move forward on South Whidbey with support for a leadership program and a charitable trust that helps women.

Just 23 students were enrolled at South Whidbey Center in the spring and nearly half of those were Running Start students; the program allows high school juniors and seniors to take college courses and earn college credit.

“When the economy is good, community college enrollment goes down,” Keegan said. “There’s a direct correlation.”

Keegan said kids on South Whidbey interested in Running Start in the future can travel to the campus in Oak Harbor or take online courses through the college.

In addition, the college is working with South Whidbey, Coupeville and Oak Harbor school districts to expand the College in the High School program, which provides college-level classes in high schools.

Keegan said the college notified students individually about the likelihood of the impending closure and held a meeting in June, which was attended by all of the Running Start kids and some returning college students. He said none of the students expressed concerns.

The college’s South Whidbey Center moved three times in two years, landing at the South Whidbey Community Center in 2018.

Keegan said the class offerings had been modest. This spring, the classes offered on South Whidbey were microbiology, introduction to fiction, introduction to oceanography, job search techniques and “working: changes/choices.”

Besides the South Whidbey Center, Skagit Valley College has Mount Vernon and Whidbey campuses, the San Juan Center, a Marine Technology Center in Anacortes and the Cardinal Craft Brewing Academy in Burlington.

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