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Four-County Learning Center Planned

ASOTIN, Wash. — Legislative support is being sought for a new higher education learning center to serve Asotin, Columbia, Garfield and Walla Walla Counties. The request will be made by county commissioners and officials of Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University.

Plans for the proposed center, with locations in each of the four counties, were outlined during Asotin and Walla Walla County Commissioners’ weekly chamber meetings, Monday, Feb. 3. Two larger offices will be located on each of the Walla Walla Community College campuses in Walla Walla and Clarkston.

WSU Cooperative Extension county offices in Columbia and Garfield County will be equipped with basic computer and software services as well. The learning center would provide opportunities for degree programs, upper division credit courses and continuing education classes to time- and place- bound adults.

“WSU Learning Centers will be one-stop educational locations in the community. WSU’s Cooperative Extension faculty, in collaboration with counties, community colleges and other partners, will provide an array of educational programs building on strengths of each institution,” says Sam Smith, Washington State University President.

Educators, state and local governments are joining efforts to give people in under-served areas access to higher education through the use of distance education. This learning center proposal is one of eight learning centers to go before the 1997 Washington State Legislature. Six WSU Learning Centers were approved in 1996 and are already serving students.

Steve VanAusdle, Walla Walla Community College president, has stated that “WWCC looks forward to collaborating with WSU in expanding the offering of upper division courses leading to baccalaureate and masters degrees for place-bound students in the communities we serve. The learning center concept will use technology to complement, and not compete with continuing education offerings provided by Walla Walla Community College.”

Jim Zuiches, WSU, College of Agriculture and Home Economics, dean, said, “WSU is pleased to be working in partnership with Walla Walla Community College and the four southeastern counties. The proposed learning centers should offer the opportunity for citizens to finish the last two years of their baccalaureate degree and facilitate the availability of our extended degree program.”

Zuiches noted that WSU’s statewide Extended Degree Program, for example, allows people who have completed their freshman and sophomore years of college or associate degree from a community college, to earn a bachelor’s degree without leaving their county. The learning centers would offer local assistance to extended degree program students.

Gordon Reed, Asotin County Commissioner chair, said, “Asotin County Commissioners are very enthused about this project. We feel it helps our citizens further their education, in turn, will help them go after higher wages and better jobs. Education is costly and this should lower the over-all costs and time constraints.”

The learning center would provide Internet access to higher education admissions and registration information, libraries, database information, technology transfer data, alumni, and event information on higher education resources of the university. Programs would be delivered by traditional and distance education methods, including satellite broadcasts, videotapes and computer on-line courses. Credit education leading to an undergraduate degree in social sciences is currently available.

Future courses may include: business administration, agriculture, organizational development, natural resource management, nursing, human development and computer on- line courses. WSU Cooperative Extension faculty, Marlene Garrison, located in Asotin County and Walt Gary, stationed at Walla Walla County, are co-chairing local efforts of the Learning Center. Questions or requests for additional information should be directed to either of them.

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