Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa arrives on a Viking ship

Christmas came early this year for fans of post-secondary education when Western Washington University announced two new bachelor's degree and one new master's degree to be offered at Everett Community College's (EvCC) University Center. If that weren't enough, the Herald's Editorial Board, in this Sunday's editorial, finally seems to acknowledge the value that University Center can bring to the county. I wished I had thought of that (oh wait, I did).

It's a nice change of pace from the news on post-secondary education we received this summer and into the fall. Our political leaders just embarrassed themselves arguing over the location, demonstrating to all that construction dollars, not education is their primary goal. Then a mediator was assigned to help break the impasse, but without much luck. Then the economy and the State's tax revenue tanked. As a result, expect staff cuts, program elimination, enrollment reduction and cost increases at every single public university and college in the State. The topping on the sundae is Sen. Shin's being replaced on the Higher Ed committee by a member from Gig Harbor. Did you know they want a UW branch campus out on the peninsula? Seems they're like the second biggest county in the State without a university and it would bring technology jobs and yada, yada, yada.

Look, I'm not suggesting that we don't need more educational opportunity in the tri-county region, far from it. I am, however, suggesting that a new university focused on advanced science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees won't help most people, and my quite possibly make the situation worse. Here are the questions I am asking when I read about the proposed university:
  • Has anyone stated for a fact exactly what type of university this will be? Will it be WWU or UW or MIT? Isn't that a more important decision than where it should be located?
  • How will it help lower high school and/or college drop out rates?
  • How will it help lower the cost of education, consistent identified as the biggest barrier to students attaining their goals?
  • How will it help prepare high school students for, and encourage them to enter, STEM programs in college?
  • How will it help students who need more learning opportunities, but who do not thrive in an academic environment?
  • How will it help address the need for continuing education required to advance in a career or switch careers through a person's working life (it isn't called the Information Age for nothing)?
All I know is that no matter what the problem is, a UW branch campus will fix it. It's like educational cod liver oil. So, until the proposal starts answering these questions I am completely opposed to this construction initiative. More thoughts are available on my archived No Sno U blog and I keep a list of Delicious links tagged UWBranch that you can view.

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