TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Expanding education opportunities and making them attainable goals for each student is the root of big renovations at Washburn Tech.
Kansas Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins got the first tour of the two state-of-the-art facilities.
Major renovations done at the Washburn Tech campus will hopefully change the image of getting technical career, so that it's a "preferential alternative," as Washburn President Jerry Farley put it.
Jenkins said she's in awe of Washburn's vision.
"It's a fabulous model, one the nation needs to take a look at."
Nearly a million dollars in renovations were put into the Diesel and Auto Technology and Energy and Climate Control programs (HVAC). The corporate partnerships, such as Trane, Snap-on, NC3, Case and Victor L. Phillips, make it a state-of-the-art environment. And because classes are full this fall, it shows more people are interested in pursuing a tech future.
"As the work force has aged, we have so many needs for young people in these trades. A four-year degree isn't the path for everyone like we once thought," Jenkins said.
She said college is stressful enough, and the recent national hurdle over fixing doubling student interest loan rates was an unnecessary worry for American families. The Senate and House came to a similar agreement and approved legislation late last week.
"We were pleased to see it had the support of Kansas senators, it had broad bi-partisan support. When that comes back next week, I'm confident it will be passed easily, into law."
She said the rates will be applied retroactively, so anyone who was concerned about their rates doubling won't have to worry.
Washburn hopes students take advantage of the tech jobs that are becoming more available.
"The job market is going to influence whether folks continue on a traditional four-year path, or whether they take a look at these alternative paths."
Within the Midwest Training Center, which houses Climate and Energy Control, can receive free software upgrades if eight students are trained and certified. The program is already expecting 150 - 200 students.
Students can attend classes full-day or half-day. Full-day students get a degree in one year, and the half-day students will get theirs in two.
Education doesn't stop at the Associate's Degree level. A student could get a Master's Degree and PhD in Torque, per say, all under the Washburn umbrella. That is exactly what administrators want.
Diesel techs are in demand, and a student could graduate from the program making $40,000 to $50,000 per year.
Administrators say some welding graduates are making nearly six figures.
The Diesel Tech lab will be open for returning students August 12, but the grand opening is October 7.