By ALICIA LEONARD
The Okaloosa-Walton College (OWC) 2008 commencement was the largest graduation class in the college’s history with 1,902 graduates per their press announcement. However, the release noted that “This year’s record number of graduates could well be the last to graduate from OWC. Due to current legislation that would convert OWC into a state college, this year’s commencement was very possibly the college’s final commencement as Okaloosa-Walton College. The legislation, which names OWC as part of a prestigious group of community colleges that would be formally converted into new state colleges – would mean OWC will likely be completely re-named in the coming year.”
OWC was one of three colleges that were included in the bill that passed in late March of this year. The state college designation would would place OWC between the state university system and the community college system. With around 16,0000 students attending OWC it would still focus on area students needs while slowly expanding to offer more bachelor degrees to area students. More staff and even dormitories are in future plans. University of West Florida (UWF) and OWC have already agreed to try and coordinate on a larger scale and not duplicate programs unless necessary.
The bill was introduced and passed in the state’s effort to give more citizens the chance to earn a four-year degree. Under the state college bill, OWC still has to offer two-year degrees, cannot offer graduate degrees and will still be governed by local trustees. Bob Richburg, president of OWC, told the latest commencement crowd, “Our success with current OWC bachelor’s programs was a key reason we are included in the legislation to create a state college system.”
According to the release, “This was the third OWC commencement at which Baccalaureate degree students will graduate from the college. A total of 55 students completed the Bachelor of Applied Science degree from OWC this academic year. More than 650 students are currently admitted to the popular bachelor’s degree program which began at OWC in 2004. This coming fall term, OWC begins two new bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education and middle grades math and science, as well as becoming the provider of a Bachelor of Science in nursing program.”
Governor Charlie Crist is scheduled to sign the state college bill at Okaloosa Walton College on June 12 at 10:30 a.m. in the Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center. OWC President Bob Richburg and Board of Trustees Chairman Jody Henderson will host Governor Crist and the Northwest Florida Legislative Delegation at this event.
LOCAL COLLEGE STUDENTS will be able to stay closer to home, save money and get a better degree because of OWC’s inclusion into a new state college program. Shown here are some of the final graduates of Okaloosa Walton College. The college will likely change its name to reflect its new status.