No more Pastry and Baking Arts at South Seattle College? Cancellation considered; meeting Tuesday

(March photo courtesy South Seattle College)

You might remember that creative cake we featured last month, a commissioned creation of the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) Pastry and Baking Arts program. This month, students, instructors, and supporters of the program are dealing with some not-so-sweet news: The program may be on its last legs. After getting word of this a few days ago, from a student who said, “The chefs told us … and it was a room full of crying people. A program that has been around for decades will be gone.” We sought confirmation from the college and received this statement today as confirmation:

After completing a program viability process, South Seattle College’s Vice President of Instruction (VPI) has made the recommendation to close the Pastry & Baking Arts program.

The VPI’s recommendation is based on low enrollment and high costs to administer the pastry program as the college addresses a challenging budget environment. The recommendation is not a reflection of the quality of the program or instruction provided to our students.

If the decision is made to close the program, the Office of Instruction’s main focus will be supporting currently enrolled students. Options to be considered include running the program until current students are able to complete their degrees or certificates, and transferring students to similar programs in the area. Human resources will provide support to impacted faculty and staff.

The VPI’s recommendation is made to the college president, who then makes the decision on whether to recommend program closure to Seattle Colleges’ chancellor. The chancellor makes the final determination.

Special Cabinet Meeting on April 10

South Seattle College’s president and cabinet are holding a special meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. on April 10 in the President’s Boardroom (RSB 30) to hear from Pastry & Baking Arts faculty, students, alumni and supporters. The meeting is open to the public. That feedback will help inform the president’s decision on making a closure recommendation to the chancellor.

A program graduate who contacted WSB says supporters plan to be there en masse to make the case for keeping the program. This is not the only manifestation of budget challenges at the college – before spring-quarter enrollment, some planned classes in unspecified areas were canceled, the college confirmed to us. Communications director Ty Swenson had told WSB at the time, “Looking at the big picture, South and many other community colleges have seen declining enrollment over the past several years with a strong economy and low unemployment (which typically drives potential and current students into the workforce instead). At the state level, funding for the community and technical college system has steadily declined. Locally, we’ve seen the cost of living rise dramatically in our service-area neighborhoods, causing lower and middle-income families we traditionally serve to move out of the area (which can also impact enrollment).”

9 Replies to "No more Pastry and Baking Arts at South Seattle College? Cancellation considered; meeting Tuesday"

  • perennialpastrypatron April 9, 2018 (5:34 pm)

    this would be an utter shame! 

    i understand that things are tight and institutions are looking to cut corners but this program has given many an individual from west seattle and beyond a life skill that allowed them to move on a fast track in local bakeries. for as long as i’ve lived in west seattle, this is one of those programs that’s on the radar of students coming out of high school looking to work in the restaurant industry.

    i am very dismayed to hear this news; although i realize this is not the final decision, it seems like the communication thus far (and as reported here) points to an obvious outcome. 

    • JonnathanLongfellow April 10, 2018 (12:06 pm)

      Enrollment is very low.  Both in Pastry and Culinary.  They don’t have enough students to sustain themselves.  They need a real life miracle to stay alive.

  • ACG April 10, 2018 (7:22 am)

    That is terrible news. Just terrible. The cuts at South have been painful so far in lots of areas of curriculum this Spring, but this one really stinks. 

    I hope they can can figure out a resolution to keep it. A lot of people i talk to know about South Seattle College BECAUSE of the pastry arts program. 

  • Bryan S Tretheway April 10, 2018 (2:20 pm)

    As an alumni I can say this would be a very sad day indeed.

    I graduated from SSCC with my Pastry and Specialty Baking and got a job in a high-end French Restaurant before I was even finished with the program.  Chef Whitman and Chef Berger were amazing teachers who prepared us for the reality of working in the industry.

    The education put me on par, if not above, other programs when it came to real-world working interviews and being able to keep up with production.

    This would be a loss for the Culinary Industry in Washington, the local community and the school itself.

    Charge a little more tuition!  The quality of education is worth it!

  • Janine April 10, 2018 (2:43 pm)

    Please try to think of another solution. This is art as well as an occupation.  This program offers so much to students/staff and the community.   Just look at all the projects these students have done already.

    Not everyone can or wants to get a 4 year degree.  This course offers a wonderful option .  

    I can’t make the meeting today, but I hope those who will make the decision read these posts and really consider this.  Thank you!  

  • Alb April 10, 2018 (5:59 pm)

    Who is responsible for marketing these programs? Hell I’ll come work for free to save this program.

    • WSB April 10, 2018 (6:06 pm)

      There was a lot of discussion at the meeting (which ran twice the advertised length, and which we covered – I hope to have the story done around 7 pm) about the college having spent more on instruction and less on support (including marketing) over the years, and some mea culpas about the program not having tooted its own horn over the years. Along with students and staff, there was an all-star lineup of supporters there, including the founder of Bakery Nouveau, vowing support, promotion, whatever it might take. – TR

  • MARLA HILL April 11, 2018 (5:56 pm)

    Any final word on this. I graduated the program in 2014 and was hired by Grand Central Bakery while finishing my last quarter. I am still there today, working as the pastry lead at the Eastlake Cafe. The company has hired several people who are graduates of the program.

    Great instructors in Chef Harris and Chef Smith. I hope it can be saved!

    • WSB April 11, 2018 (6:41 pm)

      Hi there. We added an update to the story earlier – the SSC president asked for more time to make his decision. No exact deadline but “not this week,” we’re told. We will keep checking, and we hope those close to the program will let us know of any updates, too – if not for tips like that, we wouldn’t have heard about this situation in the first place. – Tracy

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