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UW Snohomish County campus going nowhere with 2009 legislature

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By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer
OLYMPIA – Those pushing for a college in Snohomish County knew state lawmakers would give them no money for the effort this year.
They only wanted legislators to give them a chance.
That didn’t happen either.
Legislation authorizing creation of a four-year university died Thursday when it never came up for a vote in the state Senate by a prescribed 5 p.m. deadline.
That means efforts to launch a new higher education institution in the county are kaput until at least 2010, and perhaps later if the state’s ailing fiscal health doesn’t improve.
“I’m disappointed. We tried everything right up to the end,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.
Since 2004, the state has spent close to $2 million on establishing a college to serve residents of Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties and identifying potential locations for the campus.
The Legislature also had tapped the University of Washington to run it as a branch campus and UW personnel spent months devising a possible program for instruction.
The effort was moving along well enough for Gov. Chris Gregoire to pledge money for classes starting in the fall of 2008 if political and community leaders decided whether the college went into Everett or Marysville.
Agreement never came and the start-up money evaporated in 2008. This session, legislators set their sights on securing a commitment in law that the next state-run college would open in Snohomish County.
But the bleak budget outlook had lawmakers from college communities resistant to having another university potentially sharing funds from the depleted trough of higher education dollars.
“I did have enough votes but I couldn’t get the leadership to bring it up because two members of the leadership had branch campuses in their districts they wanted to protect,” Haugen said.
A similar situation unfolded in the House of Representatives. A college-related bill died in the Higher Education committee chaired by Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, home to a Washington State University campus.
“I’m disappointed,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. “She’s got her college and nobody else gets theirs.”
Entering Thursday, Haugen’s legislation was the lone survivor of the four bills introduced this session aimed at launching a college.
Two of those specified the University of Washington operate it as a branch campus. Another would have let Snohomish County residents tax themselves to build and operate an independent polytechnic university.
“What really made me mad was they weren’t even willing to let my community have a say in trying to fund something like this,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who proposed the polytechnic university.
Haugen, as always, is looking ahead to trying again next year.
“I’m not going to let it go,” she said.
Jerry Cornfield, 360-352-8623;
Story tags » Cities and TownsEducation & SchoolsGovernment

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