WSU seeks $2 million to bolster classes in Everett

OLYMPIA — Washington State University wants an infusion of state dollars next year to add courses and teach more students in Everett.

WSU is seeking $2 million to offer bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering, communications and hospitality-business management through the University Center on the campus of Everett Community College.

If the money materializes, WSU could greatly expand its presence on the campus where it launched a mechanical engineering program two months ago.

“We’re still in the infancy of what we’re hoping to do there. We think this represents a meaningful expansion of the center,” said Chris Mulick, director of state relations for WSU.

University officials wrote the $2 million into the school’s 2013-15 budget request they sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire last month. Gregoire will consider whether to fund it in her final budget proposal due to lawmakers in December.

Final action won’t be taken until the spring when the next Legislature and governor act on a budget.

“We certainly think it’s doable,” said Mulick, noting he’s outlined the university’s request to lawmakers serving Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.

Gretchen Rowe, associate dean for the University Center, is hopeful it works out.

“The University Center is all about increasing baccalaureate degree offerings to the Everett Community College students and the folks in our region,” she said.

WSU chose programs it perceived would best serve the needs of the north Puget Sound region and gain the university a higher profile in the community.

With electrical engineering, there is a very clear demand, Mulick said.

The hospitality-business management program began in 1932 and is the third oldest of its kind in the nation. It produces graduates who manage hotels and tourist destinations, he said.

Leaders of the Tulalip Tribes, which owns a casino and resort hotel, expressed interest in WSU bringing the program to Everett, he said.

Finally, WSU is looking to offer an integrated communications degree through its renowned Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

“It gives us a chance to bring a signature WSU program to Everett,” Mulick said.

From the University Center’s perspective, “communication has always been a degree we’ve wanted to bring here,” Rowe said.

WSU envisions enrolling 20 third-year students in each program for the 2013 school year. In 2014, and every year after, there would be 20 fourth-year students and 20 third year students for a total of 40 in each program and 120 in total each year.

Coupled with its allotment of mechanical engineering students, WSU, by 2015, would enroll 180 students through the University Center, a collaboration of eight public and private colleges providing bachelor’s and master’s degree courses.

Today Everett Community College manages the center, whose partners include the University of Washington and Western Washington University. A 2011 state law prescribes a path for EvCC to hand over the administrative reins of the center to the Pullman-based university by mid-2014.

In the meantime, if WSU secures funds for the additional offerings, it will almost certainly renew talk of establishing a full branch campus in the city soon.

Mulick said that is a whole different conversation.

“There are a series of very specific steps to creating a branch campus,” Mulick said. “We’re focused on this expansion of the University Center and additional expansions of the center in years to come.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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