February 3, 1998 in Nation/World

Lawmakers Say Bill Won’t End Ewu In Spokane But Critics Say Legislation Gives WSU A Clear Edge

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Lawmakers who proposed giving Washington State University control of higher education in Spokane denied Monday that they effectively are booting Eastern Washington University back to Cheney.

Sen. Eugene Prince, R-Thornton, even went so far as to say he thought all 35 degree programs EWU currently offers in Spokane likely would remain there. “But I can’t guarantee it,” he added.

In a public hearing on their compromise proposal before a Senate committee, Prince and Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane, repeatedly urged frustrated EWU students, administrators and supporters not to assume the bill would force EWU out of Spokane.

“That’s not our intent,” Prince said.

The bill would require all EWU programs now offered outside Cheney to go before a governor-appointed citizens panel - the Higher Education Coordinating Board - which would determine whether they should continue.

Senate Bill 6717 also would abolish the Joint Center for Higher Education in Spokane, a consortium of local colleges and universities that regulates academic programs and manages the Riverpoint Higher Education Park east of downtown.

The bill was introduced last week after West had proposed merging WSU and EWU, a plan that Prince fiercely opposed.

Prince said the intent of the compromise bill is to create a WSU branch campus in Spokane that mirrors those in the Tri-Cities and Vancouver. It also would give Spokane greater access to WSU’s applied research programs.

But critics argued that the language of the bill clearly gives WSU the upper hand in providing upper-division and graduate-level programs, and even deletes a section that once gave Eastern shared authority in Spokane.

“What (Prince) says is fine, but the law is the law,” said Michael Stewart, Eastern vice president for business and finance. “The lawyers are going to interpret this to mean Eastern isn’t supposed to operate in Spokane.”

Student Ester Larsen, a single mother, said she feared the bill would actually end her education because she couldn’t afford WSU and didn’t have time to commute to Cheney.

Michael Ormsby, an Eastern board member, said that most of Eastern’s Spokane programs were approved by earlier oversight panels.

“Why do we have to rejustify having them?” he asked. “We believe we went through the process and they’re legitimate in Spokane.”

Other critics said that since the bill makes WSU the dominant school, any time there are redundant programs, WSU’s will remain and Eastern’s will get cut.

Land-use planner Michael Davolio predicted that Eastern’s planning program - the only accredited undergraduate program in the Northwest - would be replaced by WSU’s unaccredited program.

“This bill is one of those clear-cut examples of unintended consequences,” he said.

Prince and West rejected the claims.

“There’s nothing in this bill that says ‘this program gets to stay in Spokane’ or ‘this program has to go back to Cheney,”’ West said. Eastern “just has to convince the HEC board its program is appropriate where it is.”

Saying the debate was like “fighting a negative” and “battling ghosts,” West said Eastern supporters should embrace the bill as a chance for the university to prove itself.

“They should have more confidence in what they’re doing,” West said. “This should be seen not as a threat, but as an opportunity to show the HEC Board what they can do.”

But asked whether he wanted all Eastern’s programs to remain in Spokane, West said, “You don’t want to give an indication to the HEC board of what the Legislature wants because then the decisions will be political.”

And while Prince said he would consider amendments pitched by Eastern supporters that might make it easier for existing programs to be kept in Spokane, West said, “The (proposed) law says what the law says.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: The Senate Higher Education Committee is expected to pass SB6717 later this week after a final hearing.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

EWU-SPOKANE DEGREES

Eastern Washington University offers the following degreed programs in Spokane in addition to dozens of courses that lead to other degrees that may be completed in Cheney:

Business administration, accounting, office management, economics, finance, human resource management, management information systems, marketing, business education.

Communication disorders.

Computer information systems.

Creative writing.

Dental hygiene.

Journalism, broadcast, public relations.

Liberal studies.

Physical therapy.

Public administration.

Social work.

Urban and regional planning.

The Senate Higher Education Committee is expected to pass SB6717 later this week after a final hearing.

This sidebar appeared with the story: EWU-SPOKANE DEGREES Eastern Washington University offers the following degreed programs in Spokane in addition to dozens of courses that lead to other degrees that may be completed in Cheney: Business administration, accounting, office management, economics, finance, human resource management, management information systems, marketing, business education. Communication disorders. Computer information systems. Creative writing. Dental hygiene. Journalism, broadcast, public relations. Liberal studies. Physical therapy. Public administration. Social work. Urban and regional planning.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus