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Olympic College's Poulsbo campus is looking local

Olympic College students (left to right) Karena Prater, Jade Stefano and Mary Field chat in the commons area Wednesday on the Poulsbo campus.  The four-year nursing program is moving to the Bremerton campus, freeing up space for transfer students. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
Olympic College students (left to right) Karena Prater, Jade Stefano and Mary Field chat in the commons area Wednesday on the Poulsbo campus. The four-year nursing program is moving to the Bremerton campus, freeing up space for transfer students.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

POULSBO — Suddenly with space to spare, Olympic College is repositioning its Poulsbo campus as a one-stop shop for North Kitsap transfer students.

Olympic will move its nursing program back to the Bremerton campus this summer. That will free up several classrooms, labs and study areas in the Poulsbo campus, used to teach about 130 full-time equivalent nursing students.

The Poulsbo campus will rework that space to meet the needs of more North Kitsap students, Poulsbo Branch Director Kristin Poppo said.

“Because nursing served the whole district it limited how much we could serve the local area,” Poppo said. “We want to be a resource to the community.”

What North Kitsap students want, Poppo said, is more transfer courses.

Transfer courses are classes students take to gain college credits before moving to a four-year university. The classes are open to high school graduates and high school juniors and seniors through the Running Start program.

About 60 percent of students at the Poulsbo campus are already in transfer programs, but most have to travel to the Bremerton campus to complete a two-year associate’s degree.

Beginning next fall, the Poulsbo campus will begin offering more full degree programs including business, human services, organizational leadership, political science, psychology, sociology and speech.

North Kitsap School District Counselor Mary Brown sees the new focus on transfer courses as a big positive for local students.

With a down economy and rising tuitions at four-year colleges in the state, many families are taking a hard look at transfer programs, Brown said.

“The trend you see more than anything is with the economy kids and parents are looking for ways of saving money on education,” she said.

Olympic’s Poulsbo campus draws the majority of its Running Start students from North Kitsap High School, which has 77 students in the program this year. Kingston High School has 35 Running Start students, but many attend colleges in the Edmonds area. Bainbridge Running Start students gravitate toward Seattle schools.

The new transfer courses at Olympic’s Poulsbo campus could keep more transfer students in Poulsbo said Steffany Peterson, vice president of Olympic’s student association. Peterson helped the school administration develop the new package of courses and surveyed students to learn what they wanted to see added at the campus.

“There’s a lot you could start here,” Peterson said, “but when you got into that upper level you had to go to Bremerton, which was difficult.”

Beyond allowing a wider course offering, Peterson hopes the nursing program’s move will change the overall atmosphere at the Poulsbo campus.

Nursing classes have monopolized most available study areas and recreational rooms. Plus nursing students like a quiet campus, Peterson said, which has limited some of the extracurricular events she’s been able to organize.

“It’s been feeling kind of cramped,” she said.

A small dip in enrollment is expected at the Poulsbo campus in the fall quarter as transfer students begin to fill the void left by the nursing program. For the long term, Olympic has laid the groundwork for expansion in Poulsbo, recently purchasing 4.5 acres of property on which to construct several new buildings.

Student demand will ultimately decide what fills those classrooms, Poppo said.

“The next step is figuring out what niche we’re going to fill,” Poppo said. “We need to grow a little bit before we can do that.”

First Lutheran Church is located at 18920 4th Avenue N.E. in Poulsbo. People interested in volunteering for the shelter can call Paul Davis at (360) 779-2622.

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