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OH Magazine | Extra Credit: General Studies

Don't let the city of Oak Harbor's size fool you — it is packed full of educational opportunity. And though it may not seem apparent, among that opportunity is amazing and diverse educational benefits. Some of which can be found in what may seem like an off-limits location.

Inside the gates of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station are branch campuses of three prestigious colleges, their campus rooted all over the United States, their course offerings found right here in Oak Harbor.

Many residents may think that this option is unavailable to them if they are not affiliated with the military; however advisors want civilians to know they can access these courses too.

One of the three colleges, Chapman University, is a very selective private liberal arts college rooted in suburban California. Chapman has been established for more than 50 years, and while the smaller version located on the naval base does not share all of the same degrees offered by the main campus, it still boasts its own impressive share.

Columbia University, an affiliate of the Columbia located in Missouri, is also found on the naval base. One benefit of Columbia is it’s affordability, and the fact that though the original campus is in an urban setting, its branch in Oak Harbor offers all the benefits of a smaller school.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the last but not least college offered on base in Oak Harbor lends a unique dynamic. While it offers traditional degrees; it also gives citizens interested in aviation a focused learning environment. Embry-Riddle is based in Florida and is one of the top colleges in its field.

These three colleges open their doors to Oak Harbor residents with one catch. Availability is favored for military members and their spouses, and then offered to civilian residents. A Chapman advisor assured, “I have never had to turn anyone away.”

With that assurance in mind, take advantage of the exceptional opportunity Oak Harbor affords its community — diverse education from all over America, located just inside the NAS Whidbey gates.

Heading back into a classroom can sometimes be a daunting task, especially for a person who has been away from the academic atmosphere for an extended period of time. This worry can be soothed, however by a visit to the Skagit Valley College Whidbey Island campus, found right here in Oak Harbor off Regatta Drive.

Skagit Valley's Whidbey campus offers a lot in the way of two-year associates transfer degrees, technical degrees and certification programs. Whether you're ready to reenter the workforce or seeking to change career directions, Skagit is for you.

The college even has courses to gently reacquaint you to the academic environment. They're great if you want to freshen your English and math skills or earn your GED before moving onto other courses.

If earning a degree isn't your priority, the community college also offers many enrichment courses that people can use just to learn something they’ve always been interested in. Whether it's the latest computer program or new yoga style, students of all ages can join in on the learning.

Skagit's Turning Point classes and workshops include intensive career exploration and job search techniques to assist those individuals who have become sole supporters of their family because of divorce, disablement of a spouse, or separation.

One of the campus advisors said that simply wanting something new in their lives has brought many a student to the campus.

"Someone just wanted to learn how to do Power Point,” she said.

For the more mature set wanting to take classes, but in fear they will feel out of place in an environment possibly filled with youngsters, rest assured the Skagit classrooms are often filled with everyone from teenagers to seniors.

For individuals and families who are not sure they can afford the luxury of enrolling in college courses, the campus advisors encourage them to come learn about the various opportunities for scholarships, waivers and financial aid.

The Whidbey campus can open doors of opportunity for parents and everyone in general to make time for themselves. With this right in your own backyard there's no reason to not take a class, enrich your life, and enjoy the benefits of Oak Harbor.

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