In the third floor of the building overlooking Lake Tye, three classrooms make up the entirety of the Monroe campus of Everett Community College.
So far, it’s enough for the 200 or so students taking classes there. But the college estimates that there may be as many as 1,000 more potential students in the Sky Valley, and plans to one day expand to provide for them all.
The man in charge of figuring out how many people might like to go to college in Monroe and then setting up a plan for expansion is Rob Prosch, a former high school principal who took over the helm of the Everett Community College East County Campus just three months ago.
“My job description is to meet and greet people, create a needs assessment and create a five-year business plan,” he said last week in his window office overlooking Fryelands Boulevard, surrounded by a whimsical collection of M&M figurines. “Then the third thing is to grow the east county campus with the vision that we will become a branch campus.”
That could mean a college bookstore, a library, a student commons and more offices and student support, all located in Monroe.
“All of our services and faculty are from the main campus,” said Prosch. “A branch campus is still part of Everett Community College, but any service that you could find in Everett, you would find here.”
Where exactly that campus might be remains to be seen, said Prosch. There isn’t room in the current space to expand so much.
But as the college figures those logistics out, it is also growing in the short term.
One plan already underway is for the current campus to expand its course offerings, and soon as many as 18 courses will be offered per quarter.
Not all of those classes are held in the Lake Tye Building. For example, the physical education classes, are held across the street at the YMCA. Possible future classes include a Zumba class for fall quarter, swimming courses in the winter, and spin and cycle classes annually, as well.
And soon, the campus could have its own fulltime teaching faculty.
As the school grows, so will the opportunities for students, said Prosch.
“Growing the campus is not only getting more students, it’s looking at our campus, more courses more degree options,” he said.
Currently, it is possible to earn an entire two-year associate degree in Monroe, as well as a two-year business degree and some certificates, but it requires careful scheduling. The expansion in classes could make it easier. Also, it would be possible to earn other degrees, as well.
The college advisory board has asked Prosch to explore the possibility of bringing in industry-specific programs, such as a winery, brewery and distillery program, a technology program specific to mobile applications, perhaps additive manufacturing, biomedical tech and environmental management.
Those are fields that are growing in Washington in which qualified workers will be in demand in the future.
At the end of December, a round table including three groups of three people from the wine, beer and liquor industries will discuss future employment possibilities and needs.
Whatever programs the community college ultimately offers, they will lead to a living wage. The state board of higher education requires that education programs lead to jobs that pay at least $12 per hour.
According to self-help housing organization Housing Hope, in order to live without public assistance, a household must bring in about $25 per hour, either from one wage earner or a combination of wage earners.
“That’s our challenge,” said Prosch. “How do we get people certified so they come out able to earn those wages, either singly or together, that allow them to make ends meet?”
The community college’s board also is interested in developing a “magnet program,” a program that will be unique to the Monroe campus that will draw students there.