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UW Wants to Double Enrollment at Tacoma, Bothell Branches

July 18, 2008

By Nick Perry, Seattle Times

Jul. 18–In a plan that could change the face of higher education in the Puget Sound region, the University of Washington said Thursday it wants to double enrollment at its branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell over the next decade.

UW President Mark Emmert said he believes that an aggressive outreach program, coupled with additions such as dormitory housing and an expanded range of degrees, could attract thousands of new students to the branch campuses. Emmert will present the plan to the state Higher Education Coordinating (HEC) Board on Monday and to state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.

“We want to find a way to get more freshmen into the university,” Emmert said, citing the record 8,000 applicants who were declined admission to the Seattle campus this year.

Despite recent growth, the branch campuses have long underperformed their original mission laid out nearly 20 years ago: to act as vibrant, relatively autonomous campuses with more than 5,000 students apiece. The new plan could change all that.

But the UW faces a tough sell in Olympia. In what is shaping up to be a difficult budget year, the UW already plans to ask — again — for a major contribution toward remodeling Husky Stadium, not to mention 5 percent average annual salary raises for faculty.

Not only that, but the UW is sure to face a fight from lawmakers and Everett boosters who are still pushing for a new campus in Everett or elsewhere in Snohomish County, and who would view a major expansion of the Bothell campus as a death knell for those plans.

Under the expansion plan, the number of full-time students at UW Tacoma would increase from 2,400 in the upcoming academic year to nearly 5,500 by 2017. Attendance at UW Bothell would increase from 1,900 to 3,800 over the same period.

The Seattle campus would also grow, but at a much slower pace: from 39,000 to 41,000 full-time students. Total enrollment across the three campuses would top 50,000.

The plan was prompted, in part, by the HEC board’s 10-year master plan, which calls for an aggressive 48 percent statewide increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded and a 77 percent increase in the number of graduate and professional degrees awarded.

The HEC board is concerned about statistics showing that, despite Washington’s technology-driven economy, the state ranks just 36th in bachelor’s degree production per capita and 43rd in graduate and professional degree production.

The UW’s plan is structured to increase enrollment more in the final few years. UW officials say the backloading would give the university time to ramp up operations and would also address demographic changes that predict a temporary dip in high-school graduates after next year.

UW Tacoma, which will, for the first time, offer on-campus accommodation to two dozen students this fall, hopes to start building a residence hall to accommodate 200 to 300 students within the next two or three years, said spokesman Mike Wark. It also hopes to substantially expand the 31 academic majors it now offers.

At UW Bothell, Chancellor Kenyon Chan said he hopes to add a 200-bed residence hall at some point over the next decade. And there are plans to begin adding a large science and technology program in 2009, with new degrees in health, nursing, biochemistry, mathematics, physics and engineering.

The proposal seemed to take proponents of a new Snohomish County branch campus by surprise.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who has pushed for a new campus in Marysville or elsewhere in northern Snohomish County, said she hadn’t heard about the plans but is disappointed. She said the UW should consider the needs of the entire region.

“It shows the shortsightedness of the UW,” she said. “It’s obvious Bothell doesn’t serve the constituency I have.”

Emmert said the university needs to plan for the future on the basis of its existing facilities.

“If a UW north decision comes back, we’ll deal with that then,” he said.

Marty Brown, Gov. Christine Gregoire’s legislative director, said there are significant benefits to the UW’s plan.

“Obviously it addresses a need. There are lots more kids who want to get a college education,” he said. “The need for in-state graduates is growing exponentially.”

Gregoire has been a big supporter of higher education, Brown said, and has increased enrollments at college campuses every year for the past four years.

Brown said it’s too early to know exactly how the budget will shape up. There are two more revenue forecasts due before the governor releases a draft in December, he said. But it’s clear that some requests won’t get funded.

“It’s not going to be an easy year,” Brown said. “I can say that.”

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

UW Bothell

Founded: 1990

Enrollment: 1,905*

Campus size: 128 acres**

Annual budget: $24 million

Notable programs: Professional nursing; interdisciplinary undergraduate program

Proposed over next decade: Increase enrollment to 3,795; add 200 dorm beds; add science and technology degrees

**Shares campus with Cascadia Community College

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