Since the early ’90s communities around the state have been vying for the privilege of having a university branch campus in their own back yard. The limited number of these gems went to Bothell, Vancouver, Tri-Cities, and Spokane–but the debate never really stopped.
And who can blame these coveters? What’s not good about having a university around the corner? Workforce development. Industry promotion. Well paying jobs. Universities spawn all of these things. However they were conceived when state coffers were flush. The price just for the UW Bothell? Land acquisition, capital facilities, personnel. Probably over a billion dollars by now.
In recent years north Snohomish, Island, and Skagit counties have laid the most convincing claim for being “underserved.” Studies demonstrated and community meetings reinforced the need for a nearby university to meet the demand for baccalaureate degrees. Disagreement about precisely where to locate such a branch of the University of Washington, combined with a dramatic drop in state resources, killed the idea.
It was something of a surprise, then, when WSU stepped forward this year proposing to take over the University Center of North Puget Sound at Everett Community College. That’s where a continuously evolving center for university programs now features program offerings from six universities, including CWU.
Some of the appeal for the mayor of Everett, who supports the proposal, is WSU’s promise to expanding the production of engineering degrees, which presumably is an attractive idea of Boeing and other aerospace companies. In the past, Marysville and Edmonds have fought to be the home to a north Puget Sound branch campus. It’s not clear whether this proposal has the support of those communities. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges opposes the idea. Reactions from the universities now serving students there are sure to come in the next couple of weeks.