Future of higher education in Kitsap is looking bright

The journey to bring higher education opportunities to Kitsap County continues and with the recent news of secured funding to develop a program, it looks as though the plan is headed down the right path.

Just the fact that funding has been approved to get this study started is promising as many great ideas are usually stumped in the very early stages by the lack of capital.

There is a great need for what supporters have dubbed a “university center,” which will feature four-year programs, especially because there’s no cheap way off the Kitsap peninsula. Commuting is expensive, especially for a college student who typically lacks funds. Many students have to leave the area to continue their education. While baccalaureate programs are offered locally, students’ options are extremely limited.

Kudos to local legislators — Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Kitsap County), Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) — who supported Senate Bill 5978 and helped it move through the Legislature.

“Our education and our future will be limited only by the decisions we make today,” Rolfes said. “Now the hard work begins.”

The next test is whether or not this project will actually come to fruition. It’s great that $212,000 has been granted for the Higher Education Coordinating Board to formulate a game plan for a university center, but hopefully the momentum will continue.

It would be a major disappointment for it to get this far and then fall through the cracks because future funds are either non-existent or not supported.

Kitsap County has a good track record, however, with the addition of nursing degrees at Olympic College at the baccalaureate level. It’s not a university center, but it is a step in the right direction. The program has proved to be beneficial to local students who don’t have to travel across the Sound. They are able to take advantage of an opportunity that is available locally — which someday all students will hopefully be able to do no matter what four-year degree they are pursuing.

“This would also be an economic engine for our community,” Appleton said. “Taking this first step is a huge win for our community.”

The plan has transitioned from just talk to something we can actually start to look forward to. As long as it keeps a forward motion, it’s safe to say the possibility of bringing a higher education center to Kitsap County is very real.