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WCC is one of only six Washington community and technical colleges to receive College Spark community grants

Post Date:05/17/2016 3:45 p.m.

Two grants totaling $300,000 will fund projects that help low-income students succeed in college.
Whatcom received two of six college community grants awarded. 

Bellingham, Wash. – Whatcom Community College received two grants totaling $300,000 to help low-income students succeed in college math and English classes. Whatcom received two of the six College Spark grants awarded this year to Washington community and technical colleges. The annual, competitive statewide community grants program focuses on building the effectiveness of institutions working with low-income students by funding new and promising practices that help students become college-ready and transition successfully from high school to college.

“At Whatcom, student success is one of our top priorities,” WCC President Kathi Hiyane-Brown says. “College Spark recognized our innovative programs for low-income students improve college readiness, access and success. These grants will mean even more students will be able to achieve their academic goals.”

The first of its two $150,000 College Spark grants will help Whatcom Community College fully scale an English course called English 101-Plus, a team-taught course that combines entry-level English 95 and English 101. This model provides support for students still needing pre-college coursework to build skills and self-efficacy while also enrolled in a course that will allow them to earn college credit within one academic quarter. This model has already helped nearly 100 students earn college-level English credits one to two quarters faster than is possible in a traditional scenario. Earning college credits sooner helps low-income students save financial resources and positions them on a path to earn a college degree.

The second grant will enable WCC to redesign its math placement practices and developmental sequence to increase the rate of students earning college-level credit within two years. A recently implemented math literacy pathway provides students with the opportunity to select the math courses that will be most relevant to their personal and career goals.

Through both three-year grants, Whatcom will create placement guides and directed self-placement tools to help students select appropriate English and math courses for themselves after seeing examples of the concepts, course work, assessments and student testimonials. WCC’s program will provide support for large numbers of low-income students at WCC and, eventually, will be a model for all students at other Washington community and technical colleges.

“WCC is thrilled to be recognized for its recently implemented promising practices in math and English,” says Ed Harri, WCC’s dean for instruction. “Our faculty are committed to helping students in need of support reach their college goals in a timely and cost-effective manner. These grants provide the resources to respond immediately to the needs of hundreds of low-income students over the next three years.” 

About Whatcom: Whatcom Community College is a regionally and nationally accredited two-year college with an accomplished faculty and staff who serve 11,000 students annually. On its campus in Bellingham, Wash., and through online courses, Whatcom offers transfer and professional-technical degrees as well as basic education, job skills, and community and continuing education classes. For more information, visit

About College Spark: College Spark Washington funds programs across Washington state that help low-income students become college-ready and earn their degrees. Grantees include community-based organizations, K-12 schools and districts, community and technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities, educational nonprofits, and public agencies. College Spark began supporting access to higher education in 1978 and, since 2005, has awarded more than $45 million to college readiness and degree completion programs throughout the state.  In total, this year, College Spark will fund $1.4 million in community grants to colleges and middle schools and high schools in Washington state.

Contact: Mary Vermillion, Whatcom Community College PIO, 360.383.3310,

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