New tenant moves to Kennewick’s old Herald building and all Tri-Cities will benefit | Opinion

·3 min read
Courtesy Heritage University

A new tenant is getting ready to take over the top floor of the former Tri-City Herald building in downtown Kennewick, and personally, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The top floor of our former digs soon will be turned into classrooms and study spaces for students and staff of Heritage University, and it will be a game-changer for so many people.

Home-bound Tri-Citians will have another opportunity to pursue their degrees, and a college in downtown Kennewick is sure to be a boost to the revitalization efforts going on in that area.

Officials at Heritage University, which is based in Toppenish, WA., have wanted to expand in the Tri-City area for years.

It currently has a satellite location at Columbia Basin College, with a focus on serving transfer students during evening hours. This location will continue to operate at CBC even as the Kennewick program launches.

Martin Valadez, regional director of Heritage University’s branch campus at CBC, said Heritage currently serves 107 students at the Pasco site.

With the expansion in Kennewick, the goal is to start serving incoming freshman with offerings during the daytime and grow from there. These freshman will have access to nearly 40 different degrees and will be able to seamlessly transfer to the Toppenish campus.

Valadez said remodeling is still in the works and university officials hope to move in by July so they can welcome their first group of students to Kennewick when fall semester starts in August. They are hoping for at least 50 new students.

With a rolling admission system — which means students can apply to Heritage at any time — university officials believe they can get the word out and reach their goal.

Heritage University President Andrew Sund told me that he and his staff have wanted to expand to the Tri-Cities for several years. After the COVID pandemic, they pushed their search to the next level and decided the former Herald building at 333 W. Canal Drive in Kennewick is the perfect site.

Sund called it a “beautiful building,” and as someone who worked there, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s truly gorgeous on the inside and out.

He also said the building is large enough so there is room to grow and there is ample parking. He also liked the location because it’s easily accessible from the highway and two bridges.

University officials looked at several locations, but the former Herald building was “just head and shoulders above all the rest.”

Sund emphasized that Heritage University officials want to collaborate with CBC and Washington State University Tri-Cities — not compete.

Heritage University is a private institution and a commuter school. It was founded in the 1980s with the mission to reach out to underserved populations.

Sund said the vast majority of Heritage students receive a significant amount of financial aid so the cost of tuition is either covered completely or greatly reduced.

One of the reasons Heritage officials wanted to offer more services here is because the community is booming. And, Sund said, statistics have shown a large number of Tri-City high school graduates are not seeking a college degree right away.

According to the Washington state Education Research & Data Center, 53% of students who graduated from the Kennewick School District were not enrolled in college courses in the first year after graduation. In Pasco, it is 65% and in Richland, it is 49%. The dashboard with this information was updated just last month.

While college isn’t for everyone, it’s a shame to think there might be high school graduates in our community who would like to go to college but feel there are too many obstacles in the way.

With Heritage expanding its programs to downtown Kennewick, its presence alone might encourage more students to consider applying to college.

This is the kind of development that has potential to change people’s lives — for students and for the business community. I, for one, am excited to see where this great news leads.

Cecilia Rexus is the editorial writer for the Tri-City Herald.