EVERETT – If Mayor Ray Stephanson has his way, north Snohomish County will be home to a four-year public university by 2015.
He visualizes a university that would emphasize math, science and engineering, while also offering business and liberal-arts degrees.
“I would be ecstatic if we were under construction in five years,” Stephanson said.
|The state Higher Education Coordinating Board named a 13-member committee Monday that will study the possibility of a four-year public university to serve Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.
* Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett;
* Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson;
* Carol Nelson, president and CEO, Cascade Bank, Everett;
* Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon;
* Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish;
* Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island;
* Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell;
* Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell;
* Mike Shelton, Island County commissioner;
* Sharon Hart, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council;
* Rep. Chris Strow, R-Oak Harbor;
* Ken Dahlstedt, Skagit County commissioner;
* Don Wick, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Skagit County.
* Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, will serve as an alternate to Haugen.
The advisory board will meet for the first time at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 7 in Room 126 of Everett Community College’s Olympus Hall.
Stephanson was one of 13 business and government leaders named Monday to a panel that hopes to bring a university to north Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.
It’s a tall order.
The Evergreen State College in Olympia, which began enrolling students in 1967, is the only public four-year university to open in the state since Western Washington University in 1899.
At the same time, the number of high school graduates in Washington is expected to climb 40 percent between 1996 and 2009.
While university branch campuses, such as University of Washington’s Bothell campus, chip away at the problem, the state isn’t keeping up with the rising numbers.
Members of the committee will work with staff from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board. They bring different visions to the table.
Stephanson and several others believe a polytechnic university could serve the Boeing Co. and a growing biotech industry.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon imagines a university similar to California Polytechnic or Virginia Polytechnic state universities as he joins the committee.
There is a longstanding local need for students to be able to attend a university closer to home and a state need for a polytechnic university, which focuses on scientific and technical disciplines, Reardon said.
Out-of-state residents are filling too many high-paying, high-tech jobs in Washington state, Reardon said.
State Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, another member of the committee, wants a regional four-year university in Everett similar to WWU in Bellingham.
Whatever the committee comes up with, its recommendations had better be concrete to gain traction in the Legislature, Dunshee said.
“I am going to drive the group to a definitive, clear-cut plan to get the college here,” he said. “Mushy-mouthed, nebulous recommendations won’t get us anything.”
Dunshee serves as chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee. The Legislature spread $3 billion in public construction projects across the state last session. Most of that will be spent on construction projects from kindergarten through universities.
A new university would be expensive, Dunshee said.
“Where do you come up with half a billion (dollars)?” he said. “But we have built other colleges before.”
The higher education board will work with the committee the next 16 months to come up with recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2006.
The $500,000 study will assess the higher education needs of the region and recommend the type of institutions that should be created or expanded. It also will include potential campus sites, come up with cost estimates and a process to complete the expansion plan.
Sharon Hart, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council, also was appointed.
“I think this is like transportation. You have to look above yourself,” she said. “It’s a bigger picture than one county can fill.”
Jim Sulton, executive director of the higher education board, said his agency must look at statewide needs.
“I think we need to be very careful so we are starting from square one,” he said. “We are not beginning with any preconceived notions.”
State Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, doesn’t want to see the committee invest too much time determining the local need when other reports have done that.
“I hope we don’t spend a lot of money developing a study for something we already know,” said Schmidt, who is on the committee.