Skagit Valley College will scale back it’s Clinton branch in the fall, eliminating several on-site classes and emphasizing online study, a school official said this week.
The reduction in services by the program that has been available to South End students for more than 30 years will be effective for the fall quarter beginning Sept. 1, said Mick Donahue, Skagit Valley vice president and administrator of the school’s South Whidbey Center.
He emphasized that the center, located at Ken’s Korner Shopping Center at Highway 525 and Langley Road, will remain open and will continue to provide limited classes and basic student services three days a week.
Donahue said reduced funding from the state has forced the college to cut programs at all of its locations, including the Oak Harbor campus, the main campus in Mount Vernon and the Friday Harbor center on San Juan Island.
“We’re just trying to do the best we can with our budget situation,” he said, adding that Skagit Valley faces a shortfall of more than $3.8 million this year.
Effective Sept. 1 in Clinton, art classes will be discontinued, and science, social science and humanities classes will be reduced from four courses each to one, Donahue said. Introductory math and English classes will continue to be offered.
Also continuing will be the popular yoga and women in transition classes, along with one general-education class per quarter.
Donahue said that effective in the fall, the Clinton center will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and that student services such as advising, testing and registration would continue to be offered.
He said that students should still be able to complete an associate’s degree in two years through increased online study, if they already have completed basic English and math requirements before enrolling.
“That won’t be an issue,” he said of the two-year window.
Donahue also said some of the courses discontinued at Clinton will still be available at Skagit’s Oak Harbor campus.
The college’s South Whidbey Center opened more than 30 years ago at the old Bayview School, before moving to Ken’s Korner about 15 years ago, Donahue said. He said enrollment at the center has averaged about 250 students of all ages each quarter for the past three years.
“It’s a great place and a great faculty, and the students have been great,” Donahue said. “We’re not going to lose the center. We have an obligation to provide service.”
He said the cutbacks in Clinton should save $160,000.
The center has one full-time office employee, while teachers work part-time on a class-contract basis.
Donahue said the reduction in onsite services will eliminate three teachers, who may have the opportunity to relocate to the Oak Harbor campus or to teach online.
One instructor who definitely won’t be going online is artist Deon Matzen of Clinton, whose art classes at the South Whidbey center will be discontinued in the fall. She has taught painting, drawing, art history and computer Photoshop classes at the center for nearly 13 years.
She said her classes have been popular, especially among retirees, and that the classes were nearly always full.
“They’ve basically gutted the program,” Matzen said of the reductions. “What they’re doing is killing it slowly.”
She predicted that the cuts will force students seeking hands-on instruction to commute to Everett for Edmonds community colleges to avoid additional online study.
She said most young students prefer learning in the company of others, and added that the reductions also may hamper South Whidbey High School’s Running Start program, which lets students combine high-school and college study as a way to speed up graduation.
Matzen said she was fortunate to find other classes to teach in Everett, Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey Senior Center.
“It’s a bad move,” she said of the reductions.
Students in Matzen’s Thursday afternoon painting class at the center agreed.
“They’re getting rid of us,” said Barbara Fisler of Freeland as she worked on her latest watercolor. “It’s sad.”
“I definitely wish they’d keep her,” Barbara Enberg said of Matzen. “Her classes have been full, full, full.”
As for the option of computer study, Enberg added: “You can’t do art online.”