By Bruce Shepard and David Beyer
A recent editorial in The Herald rightfully lauded the Washington State University partnership with Everett Community College’s University Center of North Puget Sound. On behalf of all partners at the University Center, we join in welcoming WSU and the expanded educational opportunities they bring to Snohomish County and the surrounding area.
For years, Everett Community College has provided strong leadership for the innovative partnership at the University Center, which brings together several top universities and colleges in one central location to offer area residents a variety of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Many classes at the University Center are offered evenings and weekends to meet the needs of working adults.
EvCC transfer students benefit because they can choose from a variety of programs that have been strategically developed by the University Center partners. EvCC ensures that its transfer courses are aligned with each of the programs, making transfer as seamless as possible. The relationship between the community colleges and the four-year institutions is crucial because nearly 40 percent of the students who earn four-year degrees begin at the community college level.
Western is the largest partner at the University Center, with as many as 300 students taking WWU classes per quarter there. In Everett, Western offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees and trains teachers, business leaders, environmental researchers, human services professionals and rehabilitation counselors.
Western has been and remains committed to helping meet the educational needs of the residents of Snohomish County. Western programs in Everett have evolved through the years. WWU Human Services was the first bachelor’s degree program in Everett approximately 25 years ago with elementary education following close behind (20 years in Everett). The newest programs are the MBA Weekend program and the Environmental Studies/Science degrees. Western works closely with area school districts, businesses, and community organizations to place students in practicum and internship opportunities.
Study after study has linked the jobs of the future with higher education. Residents of our state need the increasingly complex knowledge and understanding of the latest skills and technologies to compete in a global marketplace. It is critically important for the future of both Snohomish County and the entire state that access to higher education continues to be increased.
The Everett area, with a substantial Boeing presence, Fluke and many other vibrant employers, is an economic focal point for the state. All of the University Center higher education partners are focused on meeting critical needs of those and other area employers.
Graduates from the University Center are at the forefront of a wide range of important professions, providing expertise and leadership essential to the future of our region and state. But our state needs many more such graduates. Higher education institutions in the state are proactively engaged in creating new entrepreneurial approaches to lessen the effects of the state’s cuts to higher education the past four years. But in order to increase capacity and to produce more graduates, increased state funding for higher education is essential.
A Brookings Institution study — Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America — examined the demand for educated labor and how a gap between education supply and demand is related to unemployment. For instance, in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, 43 percent of job openings typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, but just 32 percent of adults 25 and older have earned one.
In the Seattle area, according to the study, nearly half of recent job openings required at least a bachelor’s degree and 31 percent require a two-year associate’s degree. Also, across the nation, metro areas with higher education gaps have experienced lower rates of job creation and fewer job openings over the past two years.
Residents of Snohomish County need the latest skills to compete in an evolving knowledge-based economy. We welcome collaboration with WSU and continued partnership with University Center higher education partners to ensure the success and futures for all of our students.
Bruce Shepard is president of Western Washington University. David Beyer is president of Everett Community College.