EVERETT — As the campaign to bring a University of Washington campus to Snohomish County stalls, the state’s other public universities are quietly expanding bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the Everett area.
Washington State University, the University of Washington, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University and The Evergreen State College are now all awarding degrees in north Snohomish County. All are part of the University Center of North Puget Sound, which is coordinated by Everett Community College.
They’re all taking advantage money set aside by the Legislature two years ago to help pay for classes that would educate the equivalent of 250 full-time students.
Central and Western have ambitious goals to build and expand programs.
By summer, students will be able to begin earning a master’s degree in secondary education from Western to teach middle and high school math, science, English and social studies without leaving Everett.
Western, which has awarded bachelor’s degrees in elementary education in Everett for 18 years, hopes to establish deep roots in Everett with its teaching degrees.
“When we go into a place, we intend to stay, but a lot depends on University of Washington North,” said Stephanie Salzman, dean of Western’s Woodring College of Education.
Efforts to land a four-year UW have been in limbo after state lawmakers and local leaders in the region could not agree on a recommended site in Marysville or Everett. A state budget deficit of up to $6 billion also is expected to slow the push.
Yet the demand remains, particularly for working students, university leaders say.
Western leaders used market analyses and state reports on higher education access and projected teacher shortages in deciding to offer the master’s in teaching program in Everett. People with degrees in other fields looking to change in career can get a teaching certificate through the program.
“We were just getting a lot of inquiries and we got to the point where we said, ‘Let’s just do it,’ ” Salzman said. “We simply couldn’t wait. How long can the community sit there and wait?”
Western also is planning to offer a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and a Bachelor of Arts in planning and environmental policy. Those programs are designed for students who have already finished the first two years of their college education.
Classes will be offered evenings and weekends to meet the needs of working adults in Snohomish, Skagit and Island counties.
“We are delighted to expand our partnership with Everett Community College to make these degree programs more accessible to students in this area,” WWU President Bruce Shepard said.
Central Washington University, which has offered classes at Edmonds Community College since 1975, also is testing the waters in Everett with bachelor’s degrees in information technology and administrative management and interdisciplinary studies along with a master’s degree in engineering technology.
“Everett appears to offer a lot of potential,” said Margaret Badgley, CWU’s assistant to the provost for university centers.
When the Legislature agreed in 2006 to provide funding for 250 enrollment slots in Everett, it made it financially feasible for the four-year universities to offer degree programs here, said Christine Kerlin, executive director of the University of North Puget Sound. The state pays $6,300 per student, with tuition covering the rest of the cost.
Many university courses will be offered at the new Gray Wolf Hall on the EvCC campus when it opens next spring. The greater visibility is expected to increase enrollment.
That’s what happened with Central’s program at EdCC when Snoqualmie Hall opened in 2002. Enrollment increased from 332 students in the fall of 2001 to more than 614 four years later.
“We have quite a few more degrees being offered there than we did before,” said Michelle Graves, an EdCC spokeswoman.
Kerlin, director of the University Center, is cautious about predicting rapid growth given state budget constraints.
“This is going to be a very tough year to make a request” for more enrollment slots, she said. “That is a political question I cannot answer. I think there is some issue of whether there will be funding that will enable us to grow.”
Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett and vice chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, said the Legislature simply won’t have money to buy land for a UW campus in Everett or Marysville during the upcoming session. He foresees a push for a policy statement that would say there will be a UW North campus in north Snohomish County some time in the future.
At the same time, he sees growing potential in the university center.
“It may be what we need,” Sells said. “Somewhere down the road, there is a possibility of it morphing into something else.”
The UW now offers just one program at Everett’s university center for students taking graduate courses to become adult nurse practitioners in rural areas. The program is supported by a grant that was recently renewed through 2011.
Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish and vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, agrees that little will happen with a permanent UW campus in north Snohomish County this session.
“The (university) center is becoming viable,” Dunshee said. “It has been so long in getting going because of the previous attempts at it.
“It still doesn’t have the franchise pizazz that a branch campus will.”
Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or email@example.com.