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February 9, 2009 4:00 PM

4-year degrees at Bellevue Community College

Posted by Letters editor

Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times

The Seattle skyline is visible above the "R" building at Bellevue Community College, which is pushing hard to become the state's next four-year institution. Two proposals before the Legislature would change the school's name to Bellevue College and allow it to give four-year degrees in a variety of disciplines.

UW Bothell, a viable alternative

Editor, The Times:

In response to the "For BCC, A path to 4-year degrees" [Times, editorial, Feb. 6], which stated higher-education options in the Puget Sound are "… limited to the University of Washington or going up to Bellingham or down to Tacoma," I would like to highlight UW Bothell as a viable option for students seeking a four-year degree in the Puget Sound region.

This institution, celebrating its 20th year, is thriving and working to serve students' current needs. In fact, it is still admitting students for spring quarter and is actively recruiting for its summer and fall quarters.

The campus is currently home to more than 2,200 students and offers more than 20 degrees, options and certificates, including those in high-demand fields such as nursing, education, applied computing, and environmental science.

In addition, UW Bothell offers programs in multiple sites, such as studying nursing at Mount Vernon and earning a leadership MBA in Bellevue come fall 2009, to increase higher-education access for students throughout the Puget Sound region.

Enrollment is growing each year (up 21 percent from 2007) and academic planning is also on the rise to meet increasing demand. In fact, our long-range, strategic plan calls for adding up to 50 new programs by 2020.

UW Bothell is an excellent regional resource for students seeking an active and engaging four-year-degree experience.

-- Kenyon S. Chan, chancellor, UW Bothell

Have common sense, not a naysayer stance

Why isn't anyone surprised? The University of Washington and state legislators want to torpedo a common-sense solution.

Bellevue Community College has a plan that would reasonably add four-year university courses to an established campus in the Greater Seattle area. According to the President of BCC, Jean Floten, as well as The Times, almost all the potential degrees aren't offered at other local universities or four-year schools.

Hence, there's little or no overlap in curriculum with other schools.

Further, the degrees are aimed at specific industries that have job potential in a declining economy. To those benefits, add the factor of a reduced commute from Bellevue, Renton, Issaquah and other Eastside communities that would otherwise have to drive 30 minutes or more to one of the UW campuses.

Hence, things would be a bit "greener" ecologically.

According to Floten and The Times, BCC has room for expansion on its 96-acre campus. Expansion just happens to be a byproduct of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) requirements for graduation. Because more students are passing the WASL, they're more likely to be college-bound; BCC could accommodate some of this additional matriculation.

The net effect is to take some pressure from other four-year schools with degrees those schools don't offer.

It appears that UW proponents have their own self-serving agenda. Legislators are said to want to minimize cost and impact. Despite their naysayer stance, the proposed idea of "Bellevue College" meets this legislative criteria.

Voltaire is quoted to have said, "Common sense is not so common." Lamentably, putting Bellevue College on a four-year track embodies common sense that seems to be lost among the decision-making minority.

-- Jim Morrell, Sedro-Woolley

Divert funding to existing universities

Bills have been introduced to convert Bellevue Community College into a four-year state college, place another branch of the University of Washington in Snohomish County and create a free-standing, independent state polytechnic.

Do our legislators not understand that the state's current colleges and universities have the capacity to serve thousands more students, but are so underfunded that it precludes them from doing so?

It is inconceivable that The Times editorial board could really believe adding another state college would be a better or cheaper solution to expanding access than simply providing more money to increase enrollment at existing universities.

Ignored throughout this conversation is the fact that there are many local private universities within reach of Puget Sound students that offer all the degree options community college, transfer and technical-degree students need to fulfill their bachelor-degree aspirations.

These universities will willingly expand their capacity, simultaneously adding private-sector jobs to in the region. If the state wants to advance access to bachelors degrees in the most economical -- not political -- manner, it need only increase funding to UW Bothell and Tacoma. In turn, these schools can grow to capacity and fund the existing scholarship programs that help equalize tuition and access for Puget Sound students to attend the wonderful private schools in our region.

-- Steven G. Olswang, provost, City University of Seattle

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