Students who have chosen to take classes at Eastern Washington University through Lower Columbia College say the decision makes sense.
“It’s a financially smart choice,” said Crystal Heitz, 31, of Longview, who works part time at LCC. “I can continue to work at the college and go to school. I have a family and a house.”
In September, EWU officially became a partner with LCC, joining Western Governors’ University-Washington, City University of Seattle and Concordia University in offering bachelor’s degrees through LCC. Washington State University-Vancouver will become a partner next fall.
Jennifer Cockrill, the EWU adviser at LCC’s new University Center inside the campus library, said about 50 students on the LCC campus have expressed interest in EWU since September. Inquiries also have been coming from off campus, particularly from the business community, she said.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from adult learners and high school students,” she said. “It’s really getting a great positive response.”
Like the other partners, EWU offers online courses, but it also is starting to offer live courses. The University Center has a state-of-the art classroom that allows applied technology students to take a course from a teacher in Cheney (EWU’s home) in real time through web conferencing.
“There’s an element of science fiction in this system,” said Jake Fleshman, who works in the Internet technology department at LCC. “We’re using a touch-screen control system almost like you’d see in ‘Star Trek.’ ”
The instructor appears on a movie-size screen on the back wall. Three ceiling cameras and two ceiling microphones route audio and images not only to Cheney, but to any other remote classroom in session at the same time.
“It’s as if the teacher was standing in this room,” Fleshman said. “A student here could raise a hand and the teacher in Cheney would see the hand go up.”
The room is equipped for students to bring their own laptops, iPads or tablets, and electronic assistance is available for the hearing-impaired, he said.
“The technology is fantastic,” said Chance Stewart, 26, of Castle Rock, an EWU student who also works in the University Center. “This classroom is becoming the standard for the new science and nursing building. They want to integrate a whole lot more technology.”
‘EWU just won’
Some of the new EWU-LCC students looked at the other options and decided EWU was the best fit for them.
“I originally looked at Western Governors,” said Zachari Higgins, 23, of Castle Rock, who will start winter quarter majoring in applied technology. “Then Eastern came along. I liked their requirements, and I didn’t have to move.”
“I looked at WSU-Vancouver,” Heitz said. “I got so much help through here and it cost so much less, EWU just won.”
Stewart originally planned to move to Cheney, but when he heard that EWU was coming to LCC, he registered last spring. He’s in his third quarter in the online-only interdisciplinary degree program. He’s added two minors: philosophy/communications, and foreign languages/American Sign Language, with an emphasis on social sciences.
“I’m really enjoying my time at Eastern,” he said. “I think I’m getting a quality education, and it’s very cheap ($254 per credit). I feel like I’m stealing it.”
Several students work at LCC
Like Stewart and Heitz, many EWU students work part time at LCC.
“I’m married with kids,” said Justin Ford, 37, of Woodland, also working on an interdisciplinary degree. “I couldn’t leave to go to Cheney and I liked being on campus here. This afforded me to be able to work part time here while going to school. It only takes me 20 minutes to get here.”
Higgins works in information technology at LCC. He’s majoring in applied technology at EWU, with a goal of a job in network security.
LCC assistant baseball coach Grady Tweit, 35, of Longview enrolled in interdisciplinary studies in the fall. It made sense because “I’m already here,” he said, and as a family man, he likes having the ability to take classes at his convenience.
Mary Hadaller, 19, of Longview said she took an entire quarter online at LCC before deciding to enroll at EWU in the fall to major in interdisciplinary studies.
“It was different, but I found I liked it,” she said. “I can work, and when I finish work I can do my homework. I don’t have any conflict between my class time and work time.”
It’s a challenge to be self-disciplined, she said, “but it’s also really convenient.”
Stewart said the online classes fit into his habits.
“I can literally wake up at 2 a.m. and write papers.”