South Kitsap High School graduates face a new — and expensive — landscape

South Kitsap High School senior Katherine Vetter was one of more than 650 to receive their diploma last Friday. - Kenny Gatlin photo
South Kitsap High School senior Katherine Vetter was one of more than 650 to receive their diploma last Friday.
— image credit: Kenny Gatlin photo

An estimated 650 students graduated last week from South Kitsap High School, entering a society with soaring college tuition expenses.

The University of Washington’s tuition is expected to increase 14 percent this fall from $7,692 for in-state undergraduates after raising it by the same amount for the 2009-10 school year. Washington State University announced last year that tuition would increase 30 percent from 2009-11. The yearly in-state rate this fall for WSU is estimated at $8,592.

Jenny Ach, who maintained a 3.8 grade-point average and won an individual state championship in April in the Washington Vocational Sports Medicine Association Symposium and State Competition, plans to attend Eastern Washington University this fall. Ach said she will major in athletic training — several South students have gone to Eastern to pursue that degree — but affordability also factored into her decision.

“I have at least one year of tuition paid for,” said Ach of the scholarship she received last fall. “But I also am going to have a part-time job this fall for my other expenses.”

Eastern has not released tuition rates, but Ach said it is about $6,000, and that was a significant reason why she chose that school.

Scholarships and part-time jobs frequently were cited among the graduating Wolves as ways to defray expenses.

Steven Candelaria, who planned to pursue botany as a major at Central Washington University, estimates that he has amassed $10,000 worth of scholarships for the upcoming year. He said that money significantly changed his plans.

“I probably would have gone to Olympic College for a year or two if it weren’t for scholarship money,” he said, adding that he might go into forestry as a career.

Candelaria had simple advice for those who still have time left in high school.

“Get scholarships early,” he said. “You don’t want to scramble on Feb. 13.”

Derek Sparks, a career counselor at the high school, agreed.

“It’s all about planning,” he said. “We actually start in ninth grade with career planning and choices.”

Sparks said they even have a computer exam that can help match a student with a career. From there, he said, they can begin planning a career path and determine whether a student might fit better at a liberal-arts college or a technical school.

He also encourages students to have multiple options when it comes to college. Sparks said students might not always be able to gain admission to their top school, or they might not be able to afford it. He said the latter reason has steered some students away from immediately attending a four-year institution. Instead, they might elect to go to a two-year school, such as Olympic College.

“I really like that model because it gives students an opportunity to explore what they really want to do, and not exhaust a lot of resources and finances,” said Sparks, adding that 46 percent of students from across the state elect to attend a community college first. “It’s a smart way to do it.”

Daniel Durban, who maintained a 3.0 grade-point average, said he thought about attending college when he was a sophomore, but rising tuition caused him to reconsider. He will work at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard instead.

“One of the perks of the shipyard is that you can go through the apprentice program through Olympic College and you can get your bachelor’s degree,” Durban said. “They pay for your tuition.”

Tamara Bunn, who has a two-year-old son, also wants to utilize the military to accomplish her educational objectives. She said she hopes to work at a child-care center on a base to earn benefits while she attends Olympic College.

“I really like kids and my sister is in the military,” Bunn said. “I’ve noticed that a lot of military kids don’t receive much attention. They have more problems — their parents are divorced — or just a lot of things in their lives. I will be there with them and be able to change their lives somehow.”

Bunn credits her ambition to her son, Aundre, who was born when she was 15.

“I’m determined to get everything done,” she said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without him. He’s completely changed me.

“I want him to look up to me.”

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