March 6, 1998 in City

House Passes WSU Plan For Spokane Pullman School Would Be Responsible For Many Higher Education Programs In Spokane

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Technicalities and the governor’s signature are now all that stand in the way of Washington State University operating a full branch campus in Spokane.

With little debate, the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to transfer responsibility for higher education in the Lilac City from a panel of college officials to WSU.

Coming just weeks after the Senate passed a similar measure, both supporters and opponents are declaring all but over the bitter fight over who controls upper-level and graduate division courses in Spokane.

“I expect we’ll concur with what they’ve done and the governor will sign it and it will be good for everyone,” said Sen. Eugene Prince, R-Thornton, a co-sponsor of the bill.

While the proposal has been through many revisions in recent weeks, the essential ingredients remain the same. That means Eastern Washington University will have to convince a statewide panel that it should continue to offer degree programs in Spokane.

Rep. Alex Wood, D-Spokane, one of only two House members who spoke against the proposal, said some Eastern faculty and administrators still fear a forced retreat back to Cheney.

Wood urged the House to give them more time to debate the details.

“This issue went through the entire Spokane region like a bomb,” he said. “I don’t see the rush.” But Rep. Don Carlson, R-Vancouver, and WSU officials insist the debate is at an impasse and Eastern’s programs in Spokane won’t change at all.

“We hope the first thing people will notice about this is more WSU programs in town,” said WSU lobbyist Larry Ganders. “Not everybody packing up boxes, but people moving in.”

About 1,700 students from both schools now attend classes in Spokane.

The proposal was sponsored by Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane, who was eager to boost Eastern’s falling enrollment while finding a way to bring more commercially applied research to Spokane.

He originally suggested merging the two schools’ Spokane operations, but eventually settled on creating a WSU branch campus similar to those already in the Tri-Cities, Bothell, Vancouver and Tacoma.

The bill eliminates an existing oversight panel, called the Joint Center for Higher Education, initiates studies of Spokane’s educational and economic needs, requires that WSU improve higher education in Spokane, and forces Eastern’s president to live in Cheney.

West’s supplemental budget this year includes $30,000 to begin designing a president’s mansion there. Before the bill hits the governor’s desk, a committee of House and Senate members will get together and work out differences in their versions of the bill.

Gov. Gary Locke, who supported similar recommendations made by his appointed statewide Higher Education Coordinating Board, is expected to give his signature.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

What’s next

A committee of House and Senate members will work out differences in their versions of the bill before the measure is sent to the governor.

This sidebar appeared with the story: What’s next A committee of House and Senate members will work out differences in their versions of the bill before the measure is sent to the governor.

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