Responding to demand from students and employers, Lower Columbia College launched a new a four-year business degree program this month.
“We really thought business administration would be a key program,” said LCC president Chris Bailey. “We have large manufacturing (companies) here, but we also have a lot small businesses, which are our real bread butter.”
The program is the third bachelor’s degree program available at LCC through its partnership with Cheney-based Eastern Washington University, adding to the applied technology and interdisciplinary studies bachelor’s programs started in 2013.
Five students have enrolled in the business program so far. But John Neace, director of off-campus programs at Eastern, said he expects that number to grow as word gets out. Already about a dozen more students are applying to the program for future quarters, according to Eastern professor, Dr. Heidi Connole.
Neace said Eastern is reaching out to “location-bound students.”
“There’s a limitless number of reasons why they can’t (leave the area). Maybe they have family obligations, have started a career, or maybe it’s not cost effective to relocate,” Neace said.
That’s the case for Shannon Wachob, 28, of Longview, who said he attended WSU’s Vancouver campus in 2013. But commuting every day, on top of working, was unmanageable. He eventually transferred to the Eastern program because it was more convenient. The guitar-playing student dreams of starting a new record label or other music company after graduating.
“I’m really excited to get out there because the world of business is changing and morphing, as it should,” he said.
The business program now offers two major tracts: one in general business, another in human resources management. Connole teaches most of the classes on the LCC campus, although students do take finance courses online. The university is aiming to add a third major option in operations management this fall, with on-campus courses taught by another PH.D level professor. Eventually a general management option may be added in the future.
Students can enter the business administration program with just 45 college credits. However, applicants are encouraged to take at least 90 credits at LCC prior to transferring to Eastern to save tuition. Because the program is completely self-supported by student tuition and not state funding, business program credits are $278 per hour, about $33 per hour higher than the cost of in-state tuition at Eastern’s Cheney campus. At this price, the 60 credits required in upper division business courses cost nearly $16,700.
After first arriving in Longview from the University of Idaho in September, Connole said she spoke with the Port of Longview and “virtually everyone on the paper and pulp supply chain.” She identified a need for more trained operations managers to work in manufacturing sectors.
“We’re trying to meet the needs of the local community and prepare students for the local and global market,” Connole said.
But the business program isn’t just applicable to the manufacturing sector, Connole said. It can apply to broad swatch of careers and industries, including the non-profit sector, she said.
Damian Hassett, 38, of Kalama, said he hopes to apply his business degree to work at a non-profit or for an environmental cause. He recently returned to school after a prolonged break as he battled cancer. Now, having overcome his illness, he wants to improve his credentials before re-entering the workforce. When an aptitude test revealed he was weak in salesmanship capabilities, he took it as a challenge to become more business savvy and applied to the Eastern program.
“It’s going to be great for my goals,” Hasset said. “I’m very grateful for LCC and the community of Longview for bringing this opportunity to us, and I hope the program builds momentum and continues to benefit the community.”
A communitywide survey LCC conducted in 2013 showed that business administration was the most popular four-year degree choice students wanted at the school, followed by desires for nursing, applied technology and criminal justice programs. Now all four degrees are offered at LCC’s University Center, for a total of 10 bachelor’s degree choices and one master’s degree option offered through five partner universities. Partner universities include Warner Pacific, Concordia, City University, WSU at Vancouver and Eastern Washington University. Bailey, the LCC president said the goal of the University Center since its launch in 2013 has been to increase the number of adults with a college education in the area. Only 15 percent of adults over the age of 25 in Cowlitz County have bachelor’s degrees or higher— half the state average, according to the U.S. Census.
“We have to have more people with four-year degrees here to attract more business and improve the local economy,” Bailey said.