Commentary: Nearly 100 years ago, Centralia College and Lewis County paved the way


Lewis County likes to do things differently. It always has. It’s that trailblazing spirit that led to the founding of Centralia Junior College in 1925.

More community colleges followed our lead over the next four decades and, in 1967, the state Legislature passed the Community College Act, establishing a centralized system of community colleges and signaling a boom in two-year colleges in the state. Today, there are 34 community colleges in Washington, but Centralia College and Lewis County paved the way.

These early local and state leaders knew the value of community colleges in transforming lives, communities and economies. They prioritized job training and technical education, making it possible for Washington’s businesses to become national and international leaders in innovation.

April is Community College Month, and it’s important to reflect on the role of community colleges in providing a well-trained, professional workforce, building economies and supporting Washington families.

Centralia College students are your neighbors, friends, and family members. They are the business owners, support staff, medical personnel, teachers, leaders and innovators that make Lewis County so special.

Trailblazers are all around us.

In Washington state, there are 273,051 students attending community college. Of those, 37 percent are working toward an associate degree. Twenty-nine percent are learning a trade in a career and technical program. About 6,000 people are earning a bachelor’s degree through their community college.

At Centralia College, 21 percent of students are starting at the pre-college level. They are earning a high school diploma or GED, or learning English as a second language. Nearly half (49 percent) of our students qualify for need-based financial aid and 35 percent have children. They are dedicated adults working toward brighter futures for themselves and their families, and it's an honor to serve them.

Part of that service is keeping costs down. Centralia College’s tuition is half that of our state universities, and a fraction of the cost of private universities. At the same time, the classes are as rigorous, giving students the tools they need to succeed.

According to a 2019 study, community college graduates who transfer to four-year universities do as well or better than students who started at universities directly from high school. Starting here gives students a strong academic foundation and tons of personal support, and it saves them thousands of dollars.

As we inch toward our 100th anniversary, we will surely be reflecting on all the changes. But, it is important to remember all that hasn’t changed.

From 1925 until today, Centralia College is your community’s college. We are here for you. Wherever you are and wherever you want to be, we exist to help you get there. And that’s true for community colleges everywhere. We are all different, just as our communities are different, but we are all the same, too. Wherever you are, wherever you want to be, there’s a community college to help you succeed.


Court Stanley

Pretrina Mullins

Mark Scheibmeir

Chris Thomas

Annalee Tobey