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In the News

WSU awaits word on money for expansion in Everett

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Just on the heels of a special call to action late last week for our WSU Impact members in North Puget Sound’s nine legislative districts, The Herald released a story today on Washington State University’s ability to continue expanding academic opportunities at the Everett University Center and offering more degrees through both Central Washington University and WSU North Puget Sound at Everett. If you want to support both WSU’s operating and capital budget requests, please click here to learn more and take action in support of new academic degree programs, and click here to learn more and take action in support of new student classrooms and labs to support quality educational experiences.

Jerry Cornfield – The Herald

Washington State University’s ability to continue expanding in Everett could become clearer this week.

Majority Democrats in the state House are expected to release budget proposals that university leaders hope contain money for more classes and a future home for the University Center of North Puget Sound.

Lawmakers from Snohomish and Island counties will be poring through the documents as well. They have been pushing for inclusion of the funding. As of late last week, they had not been told what’s in the budgets or when they’ll be issued.

“All you can do as a legislator is keeping reinforcing (to budget writers) what we want to see included,” said Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, who is a member of the House Higher Education Committee.

WSU is seeking money in two budgets for the University Center consortium it manages on the campus of Everett Community College.

It requested $61 million in the capital construction budget to build a four-story, 95,000-square-foot building envisioned as the center’s future home. It would be built in the north corner of the parking lot of the College Plaza shopping center, which is owned by the community college.

WSU received $10 million in state funding in 2013 to design the facility. If most or all of the $61 million is secured this session, work could begin as early as July and be finished in mid-2017, university officials have said.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D- Snohomish, is chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee and the lead writer of spending plan for construction.

He declined to say if the WSU request would be filled. He said there is much competition for dollars including building school classrooms following passage of the initiative requiring smaller sized classes.

WSU also is asking for $4.5 million in the operating budget. Those dollars would allow the launch of upper division classes in software engineering, sustainable food systems and data analytics in January.

And WSU is requesting money to enable Central Washington University to offer upper-division classes in aviation management and aviation maintenance management beginning in the fall of 2015. Central now offers these classes at its main campus in Ellensburg.

Earlier this month, a letter supporting money for the classes was sent to budget writers in both parties by area lawmakers. Most of the 21-member delegation representing Snohomish and Island counties signed it, said Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, who circulated the missive.

“I am a big supporter of the University Center. I am doing what I can do for them to grow their curriculum,” he said, noting the new classes “are a natural extension of what they’ve started.”

WSU fared well in budgets put forth by Gov. Jay Inslee in December. He included $54.6 million for the new building and funding for some of the new classes.

Still to come is a budget from the Republican-controlled state Senate. Once the House and Senate pass their respective budgets, representatives of the two chambers and the governor will work to reconcile differences.

Entering the session, there was a question whether WSU’s push for a medical school and money to cover costs of initial planning might make lawmakers less willing to support the university’s plans in Everett.

“It shouldn’t because both sets of needs are separate and, in our minds, equally important,” said Bob Drewel, WSU-appointed chancellor of the University Center.

Thus far in the session lawmakers outside Snohomish and Island counties don’t seem to be making it an issue.

“I think everyone is keeping them separate,” said Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, who is chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Everyone is looking for ways to fund the expansion in Everett.”

Sells, a member of the House Higher Education Committee, is finding it is the same in the House.

“Nobody has raised any problems with what we are trying to do because it’s a follow through of what we have already been doing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dunshee is actually concerned that WSU might lose its focus on Everett because of its pursuit of a medical school. He voted against the bill authorizing a medical school for that reason as well as a concern about where the money to build a medical school will come from in the future.

“I worry that WSU will now turn their attention away a little from Everett as they try to finance their medical school,” he said. “Now they’ve got other shiny toys.”

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To read more about students and their exciting educational journeys to earn a baccalaureate degree while attending WSU North Puget Sound at Everett, please click here and here.

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