BELLINGHAM - Whatcom Community College has been awarded a grant for nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to expand its cybersecurity offerings.
Over the next three years, the college will use the grant to develop new cybersecurity degrees, to make it easier for those students to transfer to four-year schools and to increase enrollment in security programs.
The school will develop a new two-year degree in information assurance, a field of information security that focuses on protecting databases from hackers and viruses. The degree will be created in collaboration with Western Washington University and the University of Washington, which will be developing new four-year information assurance degrees.
No publicly funded universities in Washington currently offer four-year degrees in information assurance or cybersecurity, according to WCC.
With leaked information and hacked databases making headlines, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important for private industry and governments.
"It's a field where there's increasing interest," said WCC spokeswoman Mary Vermillion. "And there's a need as cybersecurity becomes more of an issue in our world. You hear more and more about it. It's something that's just part of the world we live in now."
The grant also will encourage attendance at the college's Girls Go Tech workshop for middle school girls and at its annual Cybersecurity Camp for high school students.
The goal of the grant is to increase the number of students obtaining information security degrees, and to make sure program graduates are prepared to succeed in the cybersecurity field.
In late 2011, the National Science Foundation included WCC in a group of West Coast schools that would share a $3 million grant to establish a West Coast cybersecurity region to address the shortage of information security professionals.