CBC sees rec center as a way to engage struggling students

A conceptual drawling of what a remodeled varsity gym would look like.
A conceptual drawling of what a remodeled varsity gym would look like.

Columbia Basin College officials are hoping an investment from all of the school’s students will help keep more of them in class.

In a vote last month, students approved a $50 fee per quarter to pay for a student recreation expansion to the school’s gym. Combined with the $1 million students already set aside to pay for design process, the money for the planned addition to the gym is in place.

College trustees signed off this week on an estimated $400,000 pre-design process that will include deciding what can be added to the existing building.

“It will allow us to hire an architect to look at what the students want,” said Tyrone Brooks, vice president for administrative services.

An initial concept includes a place to rent outdoor equipment and a basketball court as an extension to the existing fitness center. The plan includes renovating the varsity basketball court as well.

It is slated to open in the fall of 2021.

The idea is to give a space for the students to have intramural sports and other activities without having to share space with the college’s sports teams, Brooks said.

Brooks and CBC’s student government president, Vlada Mykhailova, said a recreation center could help students on the cusp of dropping out stay engaged and moving toward graduation.

A 2009 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that investing in student services helps keep more students in school during their first year, and helps more students graduate.

This is especially true at schools with lower requirements for entry and with higher populations of low-income students, such as community colleges.

“College administration has been very supportive of students’ questions and ideas,” Mykhailova told the Herald. “For us, a new health and wellness center means new opportunities.”

Student support for the center is not unanimous, however. In a post on the college’s Facebook page announcing the results of the vote, several people pointed out they are being required to shell out $50 a quarter for a facility they may never get a chance to use.

With most of the students living off campus, some were looking for more parking rather than a new recreation center.

While students will pay most of the costs, the school plans to use some money for energy efficiency improvements to pay for improvements to the existing buildings.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert