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Attributes of Marysville location stressed at UW meeting
MARYSVILLE Access, commuter ease, room for expansion and a ready student population were among the points local supporters stressed last week to three members of the state committee working to pick a site for a proposed branch campus of the University of Washington.
Selection committee representatives were in Marysville for the sixth and final Town Hall meeting scheduled before the committee makes its recommendations to Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state legislature Nov. 15.
The legislature has the final say on where the branch campus ultimately will land. They can go with the site committees recommendation or completely ignore it.
In comments that opened that meeting, Gregoires legislative director Marty Brown pointed out what was probably obvious to the 60 or so people in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Auditorium.
This is a big deal, he said. We dont do higher education in this state very often.
Brown actually was hinting at an issue that came up a couple of times during the evening, namely that while Washington has plenty of two-year colleges, the state lags in four-year universities.
A member of the selection committee, University of Washington President Emeritus Lee Huntsman said Washington ranks fifth among all states in the number of two-year colleges. But the state comes in 45th in terms of the number of four-year schools.
As did others, Huntsman also talked a lot about a need for homegrown engineers in the state. He said while Washington ranks high in the number of engineers employed and while the demand is constantly growing, only a small percentage of the states working engineers are graduates of local universities. With that in mind, as has been well advertised, the new campus will put an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
However, Huntsman also said later that the campus would offer the usual array of liberal arts classes as well. The new school will be the first University of Washington branch to feature offerings to all four college grade levels right from the beginning.
Besides the Marysville site, the state is looking at two spots in Everett and one in Lake Stevens. A representative of the consulting firm hired by the state to aid with site selection, Martin Retge said each potential location has its attributes and drawbacks. Marysville offers by far the largest amount of available space, approximately 349 acres. An Everett site near the Snohomish River covers 97.5 acres, as does the Lake Stevens location. The second Everett site offers 31 acres near that citys transportation hub.
According to Retge, the selection committee has been studying such issues as the availability of utilities, the accessibility of proposed sites and the condition of the available land. The latter was a favorite topic of the pro-Marysville crowd, who argued over and over that at least one proposed Everett location will need some environmental clean-up. Retge admitted comparative costs also are a factor under consideration, but said he was unwilling to discuss any dollar figures publicly.
The first speaker from the audience, Mayor Dennis Kendall, talked about the ease of the commute potential students would encounter coming to the Marysville site. He also bragged about the availability of affordable housing and the proximity of local businesses. The latter was an issue raised throughout the meeting, as Huntsman and others stressed the new campus would emphasize experiential learning. In other words, the state is looking to provide students ample opportunities for internships and other off-campus learning experiences.
Nearby businesses will need to fill another need as well. Huntsman noted some 80 percent of current University of Washington students work 20 hours a week or more.
What type of student might attend a Marysville campus also was a topic of discussion.
Resident Kristine Hall said she asked her teenage daughter if she would be willing to attend college three miles away from home. She added that to her surprise, her daughter liked the idea as long a close-to-home school afforded her the full college experience. Several of her daughters friends shared those thoughts, Hall said.
I look at the site and it just feels right to me, Hall added.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Marysville site is receiving plenty of support from neighboring Arlington. In her comments, Jennifer Shaw, executive director of the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, hit on the same points as many other speakers: how the site provides room for expansion and allows for short commute times. But she also argued the spot is the most picturesque setting of the available locations.
What more could a student ask for? Shaw said.
What might a Marysville University of Washington campus look like? Retge said because of the large amount of space available, buildings could be spread out somewhat and reach no more than three or four stories in height. Surface lots would suffice for parking, saving dollars on the construction of parking garages. The site also would allow for creation of athletic fields or other areas for recreational activities.
With regard the other potential locations, Retge said buildings would have to be less numerous and taller because of space considerations. Parking structures would be needed and there would be little or no room for recreational amenities. Still, Retge emphasized all four locations could physically support the campus as currently envisioned. He specifically stated the smaller Everett location is feasible, at least in terms of size, even if design would need to mirror that of other urban college campuses.