University branch finally puts down roots


The Mirror

The nomadic existence is over for Central Washington University's local branch campus.

CWU and Highline Community College officially opened the Higher Education Center on HCC's Des Moines campus this week, giving community college students a way to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in certain subjects at the same location. It also marked an end to the program moving several times since it first opened in a converted trailer at Highline in 1977.

Space constraints on the Highline campus moved the Central program from one place to another before settling in the former Glacier High School 10 years ago. It was called CWU-SeaTac. The new building also means the program has been renamed to CWU-Des Moines.

Public universities have used branch campuses –– Central calls them "university centers" –– to attract more students who can't enroll at the main campuses typically because of employment or family obligations.

"The Higher Education Center represents a commitment to key goals for Washington –– access to higher education, opportunity for all, increased economic development in our area and an improved quality of life," HCC president Priscilla Bell said.

The 83,000 square-foot building actually opened last spring, ahead of schedule and on budget. It cost more than $30.3 million to construct, with the university and the college paying into the project. Highline put in more than $17.8 million, while Central kicked in $12.5 million. Construction started in the summer of 2003 and ended during the schools' winter quarter of 2005.

CWU president Jerilyn McIntyre and Bell had a "ribbon-tying ceremony" Tuesday rather than the traditional ribbon-cutting. The latter wouldn't "have provided the right symbolism (of a) partnership this higher education facility represents," McIntyre told the ceremony's audience of about 300.

Faculty members from both institutions have offices in the new facility, and students can take classes from instructors from both schools. The center houses computer and science labs, distance-education (teleconferencing) rooms and general classrooms.

The new building is meant to serve 1,275 full-time students working on their degrees in accounting, business administration, education, law and justice, engineering technology and business. Students in Highline's associate programs can transfer to Central's undergraduate programs and still be in the same building and learning from the faculty.

Central has other branch campuses around the state, including Yakima, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, Lynnwood and Lakewood in Pierce County.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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