Access to higher education just got one step closer in Federal Way.
The Hub: Federal Way Higher Education Center, located at 1615 S. 325th St., is home to two classrooms, a computer lab, studying spaces, offices and more. The new campus opened Monday, Sept. 27.
A partnership with Highline College, the University of Washington Tacoma, the City of Federal Way and Federal Way Public Schools brought The Hub to life — along with greater local access to higher education in Federal Way.
The Hub provides post-secondary and adult education to Federal Way and nearby communities.
Traditionally, education facilities expect students to be college-ready, but “we’re turning that on its head and recognize that there’s a whole variety of people approaching higher education,” said Tammy Hauge, program manager of The Hub.
As a “student-ready facility,” the education and city partners are meeting people where they’re at to help them further their journey and meet their goals.
In 2016, the city released a higher education needs assessment report, which discovered there is a deficiency of higher education among individuals 25 and older in the community, Hauge said. Though high school graduation rates are higher in Federal Way than surrounding cities, Federal Way residents hold a lower number of bachelor’s degrees.
In a city of approximately 100,000 people, only about 27% of Federal Way’s population age 25 or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the United States Census Bureau.
A goal of The Hub is to bolster the business needs in the area and provide educational opportunities for a range of community members, which could lead to more high-wage earning jobs being added to Federal Way’s economy in the future, Hauge said.
The Hub also recognizes the educational needs of people outside of that study’s age group: adult learners, English language learners, people who are new to higher education, first generation college students, and running start students, among others.
The new campus wants to be a flexible institution that is able to refine its education offerings as the programs and community interest grows, Hauge said.
“We’re trying to be as holistically supportive as possible,” she said. “We want to be able to meet the community’s needs.”
Initially, the site will offer Highline College student support services, such as general admission, advising and enrollment help. In the future, The Hub will offer for-credit coursework; short-term certificate classes in early childhood education, health care and computer science; English language learning and adult education courses; and UW Tacoma professional development coursework, according to the website.
Cost of tuition and fees will depend on which partner is offering the coursework or program the individual is pursuing. Students can also be supported by financial aid opportunities.
As of 2021, Highline College tuition is about $4,230 annually and UW Tacoma tuition is about $11,889, according to the institutions’ websites for in-state costs.
“We have always seen Federal Way as a valuable partner in our mission to expand access to higher education,” said former University of Washington Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano.
Access should not be constrained by municipal boundaries or traffic congestion, he added.
“The South Sound is emerging as the next hot spot of economic prosperity in the Puget Sound region, and UW Tacoma is proud to work with all our partners to achieve that vibrant future together.”
The city previously considered placing a higher education facility near the Performing Arts and Event Center in downtown Federal Way, but a shift in lease agreements led to its location along Pacific Highway South.
For projects where the college has to lease a space, research and negotiations are completed with the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), said Highline College Vice President for Administrative Services Michael Pham.
“There were several prospective properties that we looked at. There was one we entered into negotiations for and were not successful due to cost and lease terms,” Pham said. “So, we worked with the City of Federal Way to identify other potential properties until we found one that works for all parties involved.”
As a stand-alone building, The Hub is 7,300 square feet and about twice the size of previous spaces the partners were looking at, Hauge said.
In a way, Federal Way residents have an opportunity to direct The Hub’s path as the partners work to meet people where they’re at.
“It is super exciting,” Hauge said of the project coming to fruition. “I know that this space has a ton of potential for all that it can be … and we’re open to redefining what The Hub will become once we get to know the community.”
For more information about The Hub, visit fwhub.org.