Legislature debates site for new UW North Sound campus

As the Washington State Legislature works its way toward a March 12 adjournment, the UW is waiting for decisions on two major issues: the fate of public financing for Husky Stadium and the location of a new UW North Sound campus.

Lawmakers are putting the final touches on a supplemental budget that will carry the state to the end of its budget cycle. In December, the state had a $1.4 billion budget surplus. Gov. Chris Gregorie, ’69, ’71, wanted to set aside about $1.2 billion in reserves. But mid-February revenue forecasts are expected to reduce the surplus by $300-500 million, putting many new initiatives in doubt. Last year the state asked the UW to plan for a new regional campus in the north sound area. Currently Snohomish County is the most populous county in the nation without a four-year college or university.

Consultants hired by the state recommended a site in downtown Everett anchored by the Pacific Station transit hub. The location is best for integrating the academic program with educational opportunities at local businesses and non-profit agencies, the consultants said, and urban infrastructure—including transit—is already in place. The UW supports those recommendations, says State Relations Director Randy Hodgins, ’79, ’83. However, groups from northern Snohomish County are pushing for a 369-acre campus near Marysville at Smokey Point.

“This does not mean that the Marysville/Smokey Point site would not work,” says Hodgins. “They are both good, but based on the consultant’s report, one is a little better than the other.”
UW North Sound would help boost the number of college graduates in the state and would focus on technical and engineering programs as well as a liberal arts degree.

However there is a hefty price tag. It would cost $600 million to 800 million to meet a goal of 5,000 students over the next 25 years. President Mark A. Emmert, ’75, UW regents and other officials have said that funds for the UW’s three campuses should not be compromised by building a fourth.

As Columns went to press in mid-February, a bill to locate the campus in Everett was advancing in the House, while three competing bills with differing sites were stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Overall, the governor funded about $8 million out of the UW’s $38 million request in the supplemental budget. Hodgins is pleased that Gregoire supported funds for campus safety improvements and UW Tacoma land acquisition, but he thinks there is more to be done.

We need more operating money to fund safety improvements such as counselors and our night walk program,” he says. Hodgins also wants to see lawmakers restore a cut made in 2007 that harms graduate student recruitment and retention.