INSIDER INSIGHT: Christine Johnson

An expert offers three elements impacting Spokane's community-college system


s Chancellor of Community Colleges of Spokane since 2010, CHRISTINE JOHNSON oversees a system of thousands of students and employees between Spokane Falls and Spokane community colleges.

Johnson was a high school teacher, principal and then executive director of K-12 education for a school district in Colorado. She has earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Colorado Boulder, and has experience as president of the Community College of Denver.

According to Johnson, here are three elements impacting the community college system in Spokane:

1. Credential Value

Increasingly, students want greater value for what they're paying for, Johnson says. That means they want a credential from the community college that will get them a job.

What Community Colleges of Spokane has found is that employers are looking for a technically prepared workforce, while also being educationally well-rounded.

"They want someone who can hit the ground running," Johnson says. "Our big goal is always meeting the workforce needs now and into the future."

2. Applied Baccalaureate Degrees

Helping students in a community college get a job means that colleges have to offer a variety of degree options. Community Colleges of Spokane, recently added Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, in addition to a handful of BAS degrees already offered.

SCC in 2017 added a BAS in one area in high demand: respiratory therapy. Spokane Falls Community College, meanwhile, added a BAS degree in cybersecurity this year, as a majority of employers are seeking a four-year degree for cybersecurity positions.

"That's one area with a very high demand," explains Johnson.

3. Declining Enrollment

In overseeing a community college, administrators always have to deal with the fact that enrollment will grow or dip depending on the economy. During a recession, enrollment soars. Now, with more jobs available, fewer people are choosing community colleges.

"If you look at any college or university, everybody is working on enrollment," she says.

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione, born and raised in Spokane, is an Inlander staff writer covering education and social services in the Inland Northwest.