Columbia College graduates its class of 2009

MARYSVILLE — High school students weren’t the only local students who graduated recently, as the Columbia College Marysville/Everett campus conducted its 15th annual commencement in the Everett Performing Arts Center May 29.

Tom Larsen, director of the Marysville/Everett campus of Columbia College, noted that this year’s 59-member graduating class was approximately the same size as last year’s. In both cases, roughly a quarter of the graduating classes was made up of active duty military personnel, primarily Navy, while another quarter was made up of veterans, and the remaining half left over was made up of community members with no affiliation with the military.

“Yes, we are open to the public,” Larsen said. “We’re the best-kept secret in the area.”

Larsen acknowledged that Columbia College’s tuition is slightly more than that of Everett Community College or Skagit Valley College, but he emphasized that Columbia College offers a mix of local and online classes and degrees, with flexible course schedules to accommodate adult students who might be working or raising families. Some of these “hybrid” courses only meet locally once a week, to allow those with children, jobs or otherwise hectic schedules to fulfill the remainder of their course requirements online. By opening its doors to both military members and civilians, the college helps ensure that its classes meet their minimum enrollment requirements, especially since a significant portion of their local active-duty students might be deployed at any given moment.

Not only does Columbia College allow shipboard sailors to continue their education online while at sea, but it’s also assisted those who qualify for full or partial employer tuition support, including certain employees of Boeing, various city and county agencies, and area tribal governments and organizations. Larsen explained that such programs benefit both employees and employers, especially when they’re tailored toward training employees in areas related their jobs. Columbia College also offers online master’s degree programs, and Larsen anticipated that the “post-9/11 G.I. Bill” will further aid military members in pursuing higher education through their school. Likewise, spouses of active-duty military members can be eligible for a $500 initial tuition coverage from the school, with as much as a 20 percent discount to follow.

Larsen explained that semesters at Columbia College are “accelerated,” with each one lasting only eight weeks. With students able to take as many as five semesters of school a year at the college, Larsen pointed out that they could earn up to 30 credit hours a year. He noted that Columbia College accepts certain “non-standard” credits, especially for military members, and as an example, he cited certain types of military experience as transferable into law enforcement. He added that CLEP and Dante testing are available, for an administration fee, at Columbia College, even for students who don’t go to school there.

The Marysville/Everett campus of Columbia College is located in Suite 802 at 13910 45th Ave. NE, at the Navy Support Complex in Marysville. You can call them at 425-304-4480, or log onto their Web site at

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