In spite of objections from nervous employees of Eastern Washington University, efforts to improve this area’s public higher education offerings continue to progress.
Where, a puzzled bystander may ask, should that progress lead?
A public university re-committed to the historic Cheney campus, focused on excellent teaching, strengthened by a clarified mission, so popular with would-be undergraduates from around the state that questions about the return on taxpayers’ investment have evaporated.
A research university campus at Riverpoint in downtown Spokane, serving area residents and fueling the local economy with postgraduate degrees, basic and applied research, top-flight undergraduate classes and continuing education seminars for professionals.
An Intercollegiate Center for Applied Health Sciences, enhancing the city’s leading industry with classes ranging from physical therapy to medicine.
Community college vocational training, linked to opportunities at the metropolitan area’s growing base of high-tech and manufacturing firms.
A culture enriched by “college town” amenities, including the high-quality, nationally respected contributions of Whitworth College and Gonzaga University.
A coalescing of energy around educational service, rather than institutional turf and structure.
Steady growth in family incomes, corresponding to better job opportunities in the trades and professions.
This is a heady, optimistic vision. As evidenced by Spokane’s ringing support for education in last week’s election, it is a vision well within reach.
Pending before the state Legislature and the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board are tools to make this vision a reality.
Senate Bill 6717 directs EWU to focus on shoring up its Cheney campus, directs Washington State University to operate the campus at Riverpoint and directs the state coordinating board to decide which Spokane programs should remain under EWU.
A preliminary plan drafted by the coordinating board’s staff dovetails with SB 6717, spelling out in greater detail the educational service possibilities and the studies and structural reassignments needed to achieve them. Among other things, it would stop the search for a new EWU president and put fresh leadership promptly in place there, through the hiring of an interim chief administrative officer.
Of course, these steps are controversial. The uproar and confusion simply affirm the need for leadership, decisions and change. The opportunities ahead make the battle worthwhile.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board