Switchin’ it Up

by Mariah Morgan

Horizon Reporter

Whatcom Community College holds an attraction for many students, including those who have transferred from a four-year university.

Patricia Onion, Vice President for Educational Services at Whatcom, says that there is a trend based on the growing number of students transferring from a university to Whatcom. In 2008, there were 87 students who transferred from Western Washington University to Whatcom. But as of the last couple years, Whatcom’s student population coming from Western has increased 25 to 30 percent.

Students who transferred from Western have made the switch for various reasons, Onion said. Some chose Whatcom because it costs less, others had academic struggles or found that classes they wanted were filled at Western, and others were returning to school having already completed their bachelor’s degree.

Corey Kleppe, age 21, is one of the growing numbers of students at Whatcom who have come from a four-year university to attend community college. He plans on getting his associate’s degree and transferring to Western. Western seems to be the most common, or practical choice, for students transferring out of Whatcom, Onion said. Kleppe transferred into his junior year from Pacific Lutheran University because it didn’t offer what he wanted to study, natural resources. It also wasn’t practical. At his expense, he would have to pay one year’s tuition at PLU when he could be paying four years at Western. Kleppe says he’s appreciative of this whole transition from PLU to Whatcom to Western because Whatcom’s advisors were helpful and made it easy for him.

Other students use Whatcom as a place to regroup. Christian Kamkoff, age 20, is taking a break from his first year at Stanford to take a few classes of interest at Whatcom, visit family, and work on a few long-term creative writing projects. He chose Stanford because it is an “academic powerhouse for the West Coast” and on the cutting edge for new technology and programs of his interest. Although Kamkoff misses the university’s community environment, he says Whatcom is going well and he likes the class he is taking.

Jake Siewert, a sophomore, transferred from Washington State University to Whatcom because he was accepted to Western and didn’t like Pullman anymore. He wants to save money and get his general requirements out of the way and then transfer into journalism. He likes Whatcom and its small-sized classes but said, “it was bumpy trying to figure out what school to go to” at first.

Chris Ketchens graduated in 1999 from Louisiana Tech University, earned his bachelor’s degree in economics, and yet decided to go back to school because there weren’t too many employment opportunities in his field of interest. Switching his field of study, he is now taking prerequisite classes for physical therapy. He chose Whatcom because it’s nearby and inexpensive; it also has full regional accreditation, which matters when finding a job.

“The future looks really abstract” for students who enter college not knowing what they want to pursue, Ketchens said. Yet “going to school is one of the best things you can do,” he added.

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