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Published: Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Lawmakers push plan to bring WSU to Everett

OLYMPIA — Exactly how Washington State University hopes to plant its flag in Everett is becoming clearer today — and so too is the continuing opposition to the effort.
Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, introduced identical bills Tuesday spelling out how WSU could gain control in 2014 of a key academic program on the campus of Everett Community College.
Under the legislation, WSU replaces the community college as manager of the University Center of North Puget Sound if the university establishes an engineering degree program in Everett and puts together a plan for expanding academic offerings well into the future.
Nothing in the bill promises a WSU branch campus will emerge from this effort though backers certainly want one.
“It is foundational about establishing who our eventual branch campus partner will be,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, whose city staff and lobbyists hammered out much of the wording.
Stephanson and WSU President Elson Floyd started talking more than a year ago on how the research university could enlarge its presence in town.
They’ve focused on the university center, a consortium of public and private colleges that offer bachelor’s and master’s degree courses. Today, about 500 students are enrolled in the program.
They went public Jan. 20, and on the same day the state Board of Community and Technical Colleges denounced the idea.
Though the bills arriving in the Legislature differ slightly from what Stephanson outlined last month, the board’s position is the same.
The center is “the first substantial successful effort to provide baccalaureate degree programs in the area,” said Charlie Earl, executive director of the state board. “It’s moving along according to plan and we have yet to see the rational for changing it.”
Stephanson and Floyd originally wanted the transfer of power to occur in July 2013. The bills call for pushing it back one year and requiring WSU work out a transition plan with Everett Community College and the partner universities.
And, while not written into the bill, Stephanson said WSU would move onto campus to run the program rather than try to find a new home for it.
Some of the revisions reflect negotiations with representatives of the two- and four-year colleges opposed to the bill.
But it didn’t erase the opposition.
Earl said they added a lot of convoluted process but the end result is still predetermined and it’s one the board dislikes.
Everett Community College President David Beyer said Tuesday he had not read the bill and needed time to review it with his board before taking a formal stance.
Sells and Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who’s been deeply involved in the negotiations, said they didn’t expect every party to be on board. At least not yet.
“The planning process is designed to address the concerns,” Sells said. “We’re trying to move the planning process forward.”
To read House Bill 1792 and Senate Bill 5636, go to the bill information link on www.leg.wa.gov.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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