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Jerry Cornfield |
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 2:47 p.m.

WSU leader: We want to be in Everett, now

WSU appears ready to do what the UW would not: Fight for a foothold in Everett.

Washington State University President Elson Floyd made his intentions pretty clear in a letter sent Monday to the governor and top legislative leaders.

He told Gov. Chris Gregoire and top Democratic and Republican leaders the research university wants to expand its presence in the county's largest city and is "prepared to begin almost immediately with the placement and expansion of undergraduate and graduate programs in Engineering at the University Center in Everett in part fulfillment of our conversations with the Everett community."

To recap, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson reached out to Floyd a year ago and they've been talking ever since on how to make it happen.

Their deal hinges on the Legislature transfering control of the University Center from Everett Community College to WSU. The center is a consortium in which roughly 500 students are enrolled in courses offered by several public and private colleges.

It won't be an easy sell. On Thursday, the state Board of Community and Technical Colleges denounced the idea. That stance helped deter Everett area lawmakers from introducing legislation to make the transfer.

With his letter, Floyd seems to be responding to the opposition with an undeniable message that WSU isn't backing down.

That's a different tone than expressed by the University of Washington in a failed attempt to land a UW branch campus in the county. While the UW leadership dutifully spent time and money preparing reports ordered by the state, former President Mark Emmert steered wide of conflicts and never used his bully pulpit to make it happen.

In his letter, Floyd said WSU has a "responsibility" to expand and is doing so only after UW dropped the idea.

He wrote:

There are two guiding factors that motivated Washington State University to agree
to this collaborative approach with the City of Everett.

First, Washington State University recognizes and embraces its mandate by the
Morrill Act to expand the teaching of agriculture, science, and engineering
throughout the state in response to business demands. We feel a responsibility, to
the extent we are able, to respond to clearly articulated, mission-related needs
beyond our campuses.

Second, the University of Washington had relinquished its interest in having a
larger presence in Everett. I do not believe that the state is well-served by
institutions competing to serve specific communities, and I agreed to pursue
assignment of WSU as the lead partner for Everett only after the UW made the
decision not to expand their own role there.

Gregoire said earlier today she knows there's an unmet need for degree programs in Snohomish County but there is no state money to launch a new college.

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