Walla Walla Community College, recognized as one of the top two-year schools in the nation, will become more attractive to potential students when its 19,000-square-foot student recreation center is complete.

Given all the options for higher education, including ever-growing online options, the competition for students is becomeing more intense. A full-service recreation center — a full basketball court, a fitness center and gathering spaces students — will enhance the college experience for many.

And it’s why WWCC students a few years back voted overwhelming (72 percent in favor) to impose a $5 per credit fee to fund the construction and operation of a rec center.

WWCC, which does not have any on-campus housing, has traditionally been a commuter school. While students get in the classwork needed to earn diplomas, not all feel as if they get the college experience they wanted.

The rec center should help. Having a larger facility on campus to meet and do activities could also fuel a desire for students to go on to a four-year school.

“From a student engagement perspective, the longer students stay connected to campus, the more likely they are to stay in school. They are looking for social connections and activities outside of the classroom,” WWCC President Derek Brandes said, adding, “We’re in a competitive environment for students and students are wanting certain amenities. This is a valuable addition to our assets.”

Of course, WWCC also offers many courses and programs that fall outside of traditional higher education such as viticulture, John Deere equipment repair, HVAC training and other vocations skills. Those students would also benefit greatly from having access to a rec center.

This center should serve the bring the students on campus closer together.

It will be a source of pride just like the athletic programs. It’s all part of the shared experience that makes college a special time in people’s lives.

The WWCC students made the right call in approving the fee that allowed the rec center project to come to fruition.

When the project is completed and opens next school year, it will make WWCC an even better place learn and grow. 

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart