Vancouver, Tri-Cities citizens support four-year universities

Last spring the state Legislature gave WSU Vancouver, WSU Tri-Cities and the University of Washington branch campuses an assignment: to conduct a study gauging current and future higher-education needs in the areas served by their branch campuses. Now those studies are being reviewed by the WSU Board of Regents.

The Legislature stated: “Each branch campus shall examine its instructional programs, costs, research initiatives, student enrollment characteristics and regional context and make a recommendation by Jan. 15, 2005, to the Higher Education Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives for the future evolution of the campus.”

It directed the branch campuses to make recommendations concerning:
• a model of instruction (upper division transfer vs. four year)
• role and mission (comprehensive vs. research university)
• governance (stand alone institution vs. continuing as part of WSU) and
• cost.

The legislation, created by Substitute House Bill 2707, asks the campuses to examine their roles in doctoral education as well. It stated “a branch campus may propose legislation to authorize practice-oriented or professional doctoral programs if: (a) unique research facilities and equipment are located near the campus; or (b) the campus can clearly demonstrate student and employer demand in the region that is linked to regional economic development.”

Since then, both campuses have been surveying people throughout their regions -— business and industry leaders, citizens, faculty, staff, students — to measure the perceived needs for higher education services in those areas.

Reality is, both campuses are located in major, growing Washington cities that have no public four-year universities in their region, and both work cooperatively with surrounding community colleges. The Vancouver/Clark County region has the lowest rate in the state for high school students going on to earn bachelor’s degrees.

To say the least, community support has been strong for expanding these sites into comprehensive four-year universities, with some research capabilities. Here’s a brief summary of those survey results and recommendations.

WSU Vancouver

WSU Vancouver enrolls about 1,340 full-time-equivalent students, offers 16 bachelors degrees and nine masters degrees. However, the baccalaureate attainment rate in Clark and Cowlitz counties is 20 percent, compared to 28 percent for the state of Washington, 31 percent in Portland and 48 percent in Seattle.

To assess the area’s needs, WSU Vancouver surveyed approximately 4,000 people throughout that region. A few of the questions and responses include:

Q: Should the university offer four-year degree programs, in addition to maintaining its two-plus-two option?

Respondents: Regionwide, 69% support a four-year degree program in addition to the 2+2 option, while 30% say that only the current 2+2 option should be offered.

Support among business and industry leaders was stronger still with 79% supporting the four-year/2+2 option.

When supporters were asked why they wanted the four-year/2+2 option, they said it would:
• increase educational opportunities for higher education to better meet the regional demands of students and other citizens
• help supply local industry and business with a skilled, educated workforce
• improve the quality of education offered regionally
• help attract and retrain more high quality students
• improve higher education affordability

Q: If WSU Vancouver offered a four-year bachelor’s degree program, should it restrict freshman admission to only the most qualified applicants?

Respondents: 66 percent said yes.

Q: Should WSU Vancouver focus only on educating students through teaching, or both teaching and research?

Respondents: 16% said teaching only; while 82% said teaching and research.

Q: Should WSU Vancouver faculty and students engage in research that benefits the southwest Washington area economy?

Respondents: 87% said yes.

Q: What type of degrees should WSU Vancouver offer?

Respondents: 98% bachelor degrees; 94% masters degrees; 65% doctoral degrees; 40% professional degrees.

Q: What type of degree “programs” should WSU Vancouver offer?

Respondents: 92% business; 90% education; 88% computer science; 86% engineering; 84% health; 83% physical sciences; 78% social sciences; 73% human development; 72% humanities; 70% social services; 55% fine arts; 53% agriculture. Twelve percent of all respondents offered suggestions for additional types of degree programs varying from aeronautical engineering to veterinary science.


Based on these results, WSU Vancouver is submitting several recommendations, including:

Lower-division courses: Expand WSU Vancouver to a four-year institution, with selected freshmen and sophomores. Initially, the university would admit 200 freshmen in Fall 2006, with a growth rate of 7.5% annually.
Upper-division transfers: The introduction of a four-year track system should not displace the role of WSU Vancouver as an upper division transfer institution, which is still valid. It is recommended that upper division transfer and graduate tracks continue to grow at a rate of 7.5% annually, contingent upon operational funding.
Doctorates: WSU Vancouver will not pursue a doctoral degree role, as such. Rather, the WSU system will make available appropriate doctoral degrees in areas where demand is demonstrable and where resources are available. Even then, appropriate resources from all campuses will be made available to support the program offerings.

Rather than the traditional model of a research and/or comprehensive university, WSU Vancouver is proposing to follow a third, emerging model known as the urban or metropolitan university, with a research component that focuses on local community issues and the needs of target economic sectors important to the growth of the southwest Washington economy.

Projections are that expansion of the university, as proposed above, would result in an increase of graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 450 to 1,300 per year between now and 2015. It would increase the access ratio from 1 in 484 to 1 in 151 for the current population.

“These proposals are consist with and an outgrowth of the WSU System re-organization initiated by the regents in March 2003, “said Hal Dengerink, chancellor of WSU Vancouver. “They are proposals that allow us to serve our community better and provide a higher education path to students for whom the current 2+2 option is not viable.”

For more Information on this study, go to

WSU Tri-Cities

The Tri-Cities campus’ self study is being presented to students, civic groups/organizations and the university’s educational partners throughout the mid–Columbia region.

There are five recommendations in the Tri–Cities’ draft report. The report assumes both adequate funding and that student, regional and state needs are best served by the WSU Tri-Cities campus remaining part of the statewide WSU system.

The five recommendations are that the Tri–Cities campus will:

• Transition from an upper-division only and graduate “instructional model” to a full four-year university offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. • Offer master’s and doctoral degrees important to both the region and state. These will include internationally–recognized masters and Ph.D.s in specialized areas of science and engineering that capitalize on a growing partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland
• Have a “role and mission” that includes world-class research and public service and outreach essential to the economic and cultural advancement of the region and state.
• Address a broad range of research important to state and regional problems, issues and needs, including partnership efforts with PNNL.The WSU Tri-Cities campus will become a regional center for the arts through plays, concerts, lectures and other cultural and athletic events. Club sports will be initiated to build a campus culture, enrich the student experience and engage the public.

The campus will partner with the PNNL to develop research and education programs in targeted areas of science and engineering. These programs will utilize PNNL’s personnel, facilities and equipment to address national, regional and/or state priorities, such as bioproducts.

WSU Tri-Cities’ primary service area — in addition to Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties — will be extended to include Adams, Columbia, Grant, Klickitat and Yakima counties in Washington, as well as Morrow and Umatilla counties in Oregon.

An additional 178,000 Washington residents and 84,000 Oregonians will be served, more than twice the population of the current service area. Selected bachelor’s and graduate programs will be offered in Yakima, Walla Walla and Moses Lake in collaboration with community college partners.

This expansion will help address Washington’s enrollment crisis by growing WSU Tri-Cities to 3,000 students (1,800 FTE) by 2015. Enrollment will be increased by attracting: (a) more transfers from community colleges in the region, (b) students who are currently leaving the region to attend Washington universities, and (c) students from outside the region. More degrees and a larger service area will increase graduate enrollment.

These recommendations have associated costs. Operating costs will include one-time funds for faculty and program startup, and continuing support for an additional 1,000 undergraduate and 100 graduate FTE over the next 10 years.

Capital costs will cover additional faculty offices and distance-education capacity for the campus, along with a student services/student center building. Both operating and capital expenditures are needed to implement these draft recommendations.

Survey and focus group data documenting responses from the Tri-Cities community to the self-study and the recommendations are being collected and will be incorporated in to the final report.

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