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Bellevue College Expands Offerings As City Grows More Diverse

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
Bellevue College student Ravneet Sandhu (left) lives with her family to save money and commute time. Her friend Noureddine Kassab is an international student from Lebanon.

Bellevue College wants to partner with Washington State University to expand its slate of four year degrees. It’s a small step in a much bigger transformation.

KUOW’s Joshua McNichols has more.


Fifty years ago, Bellevue College was a commuter college serving a suburban area. But Bellevue has changed. It has become more diverse. And while there are lots of high paying jobs in Bellevue, those jobs can seem out of reach for many of Bellevue’s population.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Gita Bangera is Dean of Undergraduate Research at Bellevue College. She's helping pioneer the unusual approach of having undergraduates conduct graduate level research. \"That means they're doing experiments where no one knows what the results will be,\" she says.", "fid": "118097", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201505/gita_bangera.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]Gita Bangera is a dean at Bellevue College.

Bangera: “We want to make sure that those students who are first generation students for example, or they come from groups that are not that represented in high tech – we want to give them the education that will plug them into those opportunities.”

Faculty here are doing that by making Bellevue College more like a small university. That means more four-year degrees and having undergraduate students do graduate level research.

Having that kind of education available at Bellevue College is convenient for student Ravneet Sandhu, because she can live with her parents in Renton.

Sandhu: “Saves me a lot of time. Saves me a lot of money. Since I’ve always been with my family, it is so much easier, and it’s more comfortable for me to have education closer to my family.”

But community colleges are limited by the state legislature. They can’t just offer any degree they want. That bothers Bellevue College official Faisal Jaswal.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Faisal Jaswal, Assistant Dean of Student Programs at Bellevue College", "fid": "118098", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201505/faisal_jaswal.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]Jaswal: “You know, I would say lift this veil. Lift this restriction. Free the community to access education at the level they need to and you will see Bellevue offer all kinds of degrees.”

Bellevue College’s growth has put pressure on neighborhoods around the campus. Recently, those neighbors fought back, and succeeded in getting legislation passed that restricts the ability of students to use single family homes near campus as shared housing.

Correction, 5/29/2015, 9:40 a.m.: An earlier version of this story misspelled Gita Bangera's first name.