News Releases

January 19, 2012
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
Telephone: 360-992-2921

Penguin Promise

Clark College President Robert K. Knight reflects on the outlook for higher education
in Southwest Washington and promises for the future from the college, the state and the community


President Bob Knight speaking during the 2012 State of the College AddressVANCOUVER, Wash. – At a time of high enrollment and state budget cuts, what are the promises of higher education?  And what would it mean if our region could promise a college education for its children? Those were two of the themes of Clark College’s 2012 State of the College address on Jan. 19.

Clark College President Robert K. Knight noted that the college continues to welcome record numbers of students, with full-time enrollment for fall quarter up 2% and winter quarter up 1% from last year. 

At the same time, Knight said, state funding has declined dramatically. “Just a few years ago – as our college celebrated our 75th anniversary – the state of Washington provided 61.6% of our total operating budget,” he said.  “One year later, state funding had declined to 52.5%.  It’s now 41.5% and will likely drop below 40% by the end of this academic year. Instead of being state supported, Clark is now state assisted.” 

Knight noted that additional cuts are pending. “Governor Chris Gregoire recommended an additional 13% budget cut for higher education,” he said. “At Clark, that would translate into a loss of an additional $3 million.  Because our students will be paying more in tuition, the cut may be closer to $2 million.” 

Beyond the impact in students, Knight said, “These cuts don’t make economic sense….As a Washington taxpayer, you see a 6.4 percent rate of return on your investment in our community and technical colleges.  For every dollar that the state invests in community and technical colleges, it receives $1.70 in tax revenue.”

Knight added, “In her budget proposal, Gov. Gregoire suggested offsetting the budget cuts to higher education, K-12 and public safety through a temporary one-half cent increase in the sales tax.  That increase which would expire in 2015.  If you share our belief that this is a wise investment in our state, we hope that you will let your voice be heard.”

Knight focused heavily on the impact on students. “In the past three years, students have experienced tuition increases of 7%, 7% and 12%. Another 12% increase will take effect next year.” 

At the same time, he said, financial aid and student loans have increased dramatically. The amount of financial aid increased from $48.5 million to nearly $59 million in one year.  Student loans increased from $16.5 million to $22.8 million.

Knight said that grants and donor dollars through the Clark College Foundation are a critical and integral part of funding at Clark College today and for the future.  “For years, when we talked about the Foundation, we spoke about the margin of excellence that they provide for our students and the college,” Knight said. “Today, the Foundation helps us meet our basic needs.”

Penguin Promise signing ceremonyAs part of the college’s vision for the future, Knight announced the “Penguin Promise” scholarship program.  A partnership of Clark College, the Clark College Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, “Penguin Promise” provides a path for some members of the Boys and Girls Clubs to enter and complete their education at Clark College. Under the program, which will rely on community support, students would enter the program in eighth and continuing through the 12th grade.  If they complete the program successfully, once they are accepted to Clark College, they would receive scholarships for their tuition, fees, and books.

Up to 25 students will be accepted the first year, Knight said.  If the program is successful, Knight said, up to 25 students could be added to the program each year.  The formal agreement was signed by Clark College and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington just minutes before the State of the College Address.

During the address, Knight announced the recipients of the 2012 Iris Award recipients.  The awards, honoring women of achievement in Southwest Washington, will be presented to Lisa Nisenfeld, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council; Sally Schaefer, a community leader and volunteer for more than 50 years; and Mary Strehlow, developmental disabilities manager for the Clark County Department of Community Services. The Iris Awards will be held at Clark College on March 8.  Information about the Iris Awards is available at

Knight also announced the first inductees in the Clark College Athletic Hall of Fame. Karen (Remy) Morgan Hill, Jacob “Vern” Kindsfather, Randy Myers, Claude “Skeet” O’Connell, Jim Raines, Gaydena Thompson, Mary Lou White and the college’s undefeated 1992-1993 women’s basketball team will be honored on February 25, 2012 at the college.  Information about the Athletic Hall of Fame is available at

The Clark College Presidential Coin is given to individuals who provide exemplary service to Clark students, the college and the community. During the address, Knight presented Presidential Coins to Jennifer Wheeler of Information Technology Services; Melissa Favara, a faculty member who currently serves as Academic Early Warning liaison; Jordan DeVan of Registration; retired interim Athletic Director Denny Huston; and Clark College alum and international student Nick Ashitey.

In his closing remarks, Knight reminded the audience that the community had played a vital role in supporting the college when it opened during the Great Depression.  He said, “We are asking you to do everything you can to support that dream of higher education in Southwest Washington. It’s a promise to do whatever it takes to help us survive as we emerge from the Great Recession.  It’s a promise to help us ensure that our children and grandchildren know – with certainty – that they can attend college, graduate, and lead rich, meaningful lives. That’s not only a penguin promise.  It’s the promise of a bright future for our region for generations to come.”

The complete text of the 2012 State of the College address is available at