Meet Bellevue College’s new president

On Nov. 5, 2012, the Bellevue College Board of Trustees nominated Dr. David Rule for the presidential position. Rule, who hails from upstate New York, joins Bellevue College as a seasoned veteran with two presidencies under his belt—he spent four years at Muskegon Community College in Muskegon, Mich. and most recently, another four years at the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College in Portland, Ore.—and is a doctor of educational psychology.

Rule also discussed his excitement to head an institution with so much potential, saying that “BC is on the tipping point, the cusp of even greater success than it has already achieved. President Floten did, obviously, a marvelous job… with things like the baccalaureates, and expansion of the north campus and consideration of an east campus in Issaquah. But for me, coming to BC offers a marvelous opportunity at this stage of my life; a long term-commitment to an institution and become part of the college’s community as we grow into this new vision.”

Despite being only six days into his presidency, he is aware of the unique challenges facing BC students. Rule said that the biggest challenges on campus were “primarily related to culture and identity. Culture, both as becoming a college and creating baccalaureate programs and exploring its idea in that way, and culture in addressing [BC’s] growing diversity head-on.” According to Rule, despite the approval of two new bachelor’s degrees to be offered at BC, there are no immediate plans to turn BC into a four-year institution, because the state legislature places heavy restrictions on what degrees community and technical colleges can offer. Currently, Bellevue College is only permitted to offer so-called “applied degree” programs so as not to provide competition for other universities in the area, such as the University of Washington. Rule also stressed the importance of not treating diversity as a “fad, where we give a little lip service, have a little food, play a little music, hand out t-shirts…those days, fortunately, I think are behind us” because “diversity is a reality.”

Rule also plans to cultivate a faculty and staff whose background mirrors the backgrounds of the students of BC, and will strive during his presidency to close the gaping achievement gaps between ethnic groups. He spoke passionately about helping “invisible populations” of students, such as undocumented students and veterans whose benefit windows have run out, achieve their higher education goals. Rule’s main focus is on the students, and providing the best equal-opportunity education to everyone. “I’m a firm believer in public education and that the reason for public education is that it’s a public good. Indeed, the individual benefits from an education…but because of that, it’s in the public’s interest that all citizens have access to affordable higher education.”

In regards to tuition increases, Rule stressed that the colleges themselves don’t set tuition prices; the Washington State Legislature does. The question, therefore, is not “Will there be tuition increases?” but “How much will it increase?” Said Rule: “My personal approach to tuition increases is to have regular but small incremental changes…because the reality is that the expenses of the college don’t remain stable. I think it’s better for the students; they can plan on it.”

Rule also made it clear that he wants to be as involved in student life as possible. “Education is my life. It’s my passion. For me, it’s all about the students. I try to make myself extremely visible. I welcome any and all opportunities to meet with students.”