This spring, Central Washington University will offer all community-college students the opportunity to be admitted to CWU even before they finish their associate degree.

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At a time when politicians and researchers warn that Washington isn’t producing enough higher-education degrees, Central Washington University has come up with a program to make it easier for community-college students to get their bachelor’s.

Starting in April, CWU will be offering dual admission to all community-college students — the chance to be admitted to the Ellensburg-based school while they are still enrolled in a two-year school.

Although dual admission has been offered by other universities for specific programs — for example, community-college nursing students who want to complete their four-year degrees — this is the first time that a state university has offered such a deal to all community-college students for any program, according to the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“It’s all about how we can produce more baccalaureate degrees in this state,” said Margaret Badgley, assistant vice president for CWU’s university centers.

The biggest benefit of dual admission: The university will help community-college students figure out how to choose the right classes, the ones that will count toward their four-year degree.

“In a very important way, it validates that they’re going down the right track,” Badgley said. Community-college students don’t always choose the right classes when they make up their course schedule, she said, and for students who are taking remedial classes, “This will give them the context to say there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Only 41 percent of students who go to community college with the intention of transferring to a four-year school graduated within three years, according to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. And of those students, only about half transferred to another institution for additional schooling.

“Central Washington University’s dual-admissions program is great for our students,” said Charlie Earl, executive director of the Community and Technical Colleges board. “It gives students more certainty as they transfer and, better yet, can save them substantial amounts of time and money.”

Community-college tuition is less than half the tuition of going to a regional state university, such as CWU, so students who complete their first two years in community college will save thousands of dollars.

Not all students who take CWU up on the offer will have to go to Ellensburg to get their bachelor’s degree — for many programs, they’ll be able to finish at one of the university’s eight other community-college-based locations across the state, or in some cases through online classes.

“This is for time- and place-bound students, who don’t have time to go to the regular campus,” Badgley said.

Students are also not required to attend CWU when they finish community college, even though they’ve been admitted, Badgley said. They can go anywhere to finish their degree.

CWU is currently offering the program at colleges where it already has a presence — at Highline, Everett, Green River, Edmonds, Pierce, Wenatchee Valley, Yakima Valley and Big Bend community colleges. Those schools, where the university offers classes already, are also known as CWU’s University Centers.

Starting in April, CWU will offer the dual-admission program in all 34 community and technical colleges. Students must apply for admission, and not every student will qualify. The $50 CWU application fee will be waived.

Tacey Kimble, a 25-year-old Tulalip resident who’s midway through her associate degree at Everett Community College, signed up for the dual-admission program earlier this year. She wants to get her four-year degree in business administration, and plans to finish her degree at CWU’s Lynnwood location, at Edmonds Community College.

After she signed up for the program, she talked to a CWU adviser, who made sure she was taking classes that would transfer to CWU and be credited toward her business administration degree.

Kimble said she doesn’t want to move to the Ellensburg campus, so finding that the business administration program was offered near home was important to her.

“I’m 25 — living at the college is not for me,” she said. “I’m not fresh out of high school … and all of my friends are here.”

At Yakima Valley Community College, Alex Diaz has been dual admitted to CWU, and is ready to transfer when he finishes his associate degree. He plans a double-major in psychology and law and justice.

Diaz, 20, of Wapato, Yakima County, will be able to take most his coursework at Central’s Yakima campus, which will allow him to continue to live at home.

He has a 2-year-old daughter, and “I just can’t pick up my stuff and leave,” he said. He will go to Ellensburg to finish the psychology classes he needs for his double major.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @katherinelong.