As Enrollment Stays Steady, FVCC Graduates the Class of 2015

FVCC president says college continues to meet needs of community and students

By Justin Franz
Zoe Glasser Breeding hugs Flathead Valley Community College president Jane Karas after receiving her diploma during the commencement ceremony on May 15, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

When Buck Breckenridge completed high school a decade ago, he was not swamped with filling out college applications or writing dozens of essays about why he was the perfect candidate for a certain university.

At the time, Breckenridge, now 29, of Kalispell, did not think that college was the right choice for him. When his schooling was over he went to work for his dad’s surveying company.

“I never really thought that college was an option for me,” he said. “I didn’t think it was necessary for me because I really did not know what I wanted to do.”

But on May 15, Breckenridge and more than 400 other Flathead Valley Community College students donned sharp caps and pressed gowns as part of the school’s 2015 graduating class.

This spring, 2,390 students were enrolled at FVCC, a slight increase over last year, although considerably lower than the number of students who enrolled at the peak of the recession.

Like so many others, Breckenridge went back to school when the economy bottomed out.

“It was something I needed to do so I could stop spinning my wheels and get ahead,” he said.

In the spring of 2013, Breckenridge went back to school for an associates of applied science degree so that he could become a licensed surveyor. He said tuition costs scared him at first but he was able to cover those expenses with scholarships from the school.

Two years later, before Breckenridge had even graduated, he already had a job offer in California.

Another FVCC graduate, Zoe Glasser Breeding, 20, was in the same predicament as Breckenridge when she graduated from Glacier High School in 2013.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to go to school and go into debt when I did not know what I wanted to do,” she said.

But she discovered her calling when reading a book on microbiology the summer after she graduated high school. That passion for science was cemented when she took some classes at FVCC. While at FVCC she was able to undertake various research projects and even presented some of her findings at an event in Reno, Nevada earlier this year.

This fall, Glasser Breeding will go to Germany as part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program that helps students study overseas. After, she will go to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She attributed many of her future opportunities to the education she received at FVCC, especially her honors courses.

“Instead of having a teacher lecture you, we had a discussion and you would always have a deeper understanding of the topic at hand,” she said.

FVCC President Jane Karas said a more personalized education is what has helped the school grow in recent years. She said big things are already in store for the fall semester, including the expansion of the school’s healthcare program, the establishment of a craft-beer brewing program and the creation of a practical nursing program at the Lincoln County Campus. Karas said much of the school’s success has to do with the community itself.

“I don’t know of any community college that has the same amount of local support as we do and it really makes the difference,” she said.