WSU seeks funding for University Center building in Everett

OLYMPIA — Washington State University is ready to pour a permanent foundation in Everett if the governor and state lawmakers will provide the taxpayer dollars to do so.

WSU is seeking $61 million to construct a multi-story building across from Everett Community College to serve as the future home of the WSU-managed University Center of North Puget Sound.

And Washington State is asking for $4.5 million to launch additional degree programs at the center, including software engineering, sustainable food systems and aviation maintenance.

The requests went to Gov. Jay Inslee last month who will consider including them in his 2015-17 budget proposal due out in December. WSU also will need lawmakers’ support next year.

The requests involve separate budgets that the governor will propose. Money for the building would come from the capital construction budget, which is funded through the sale of bonds.

The academic programs would be paid for out of the operating budget. That’s the same pot of dollars lawmakers must rely on to fully fund public schools as ordered by the Supreme Court in the McCleary case.

If successful, the two initiatives would pave the way for the Pullman-based research university to expand and fortify its presence in the city.

“It’s exciting,” said Bob Drewel, interim chancellor for WSU operations. “It’s clear evidence of the commitment of the university.”

Washington State University is a recent higher ed arrival to Everett.

In 2012, it started offering classes for a mechanical engineering degree through the University Center, a collaboration of public and private colleges based on the campus of Everett Community College. This fall WSU launched bachelor’s degree programs in electrical engineering, communications and hospitality-business management.

For years, Everett Community College managed the consortium, which includes the University of Washington, Western Washington and Central Washington universities. On July 1, the community college transferred control to WSU.

Conversations for the new University Center building began in 2012. Last year, WSU received $10 million in state funding to design the facility, planned for a chunk of land that is now part of the parking lot at the College Plaza shopping center, near the corner of North Broadway and Tower Street.

The four-story, 95,000-square-foot structure is projected to open with 12 classrooms and 10 laboratories. It will have a small space for a café and another area set aside for public gatherings.

If work begins next year, it could be finished by mid-2017. When it opens, the Cougar flag will be flying outside, along with those of the partner universities, Drewel said.

In the meantime, Washington State University is continuing to pitch for funding to add academic programs that either it or other center partners can provide.

The budget request seeks money to offer upper division classes in software engineering, sustainable food systems and data analytics starting in January 2016.

And WSU is requesting money to enable Central Washington University to offer upper-division classes in aviation management and aviation maintenance management beginning in the fall of 2015. Central now offers these classes at its main campus in Ellensburg.

“WSU approached us and asked us to think about expanding our program to be at Everett and it made sense,” said Ann Anderson, director of community and government relations for the university.

Everett Community College already provides a pipeline of students with prerequisites and certifications needed, she said.

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

Washington State University’s full budget request can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/of9akqz

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