For now, Cascadia Community College to stay put at its Bothell location
March 12, 2010 · Updated 11:41 AM
For now anyway, the idea apparently has been set aside.
"It seems to be a moot discussion at this point," said Cascadia Community College President William Christopher regarding what had been a budding notion to move the Bothell school to the campus of Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland.
Christopher never said he was relieved the notion has faded at this point, but he clearly never was a supporter.
"It was not by accident that we were placed where we are," he said, "and we were just wonderfully placed."
Christopher said Cascadia's proximity to major highways and mass transit, which he argues would be lost in any move to Kirkland, is only one reason to oppose such a move.
The thought of transplanting Cascadia seemed to gain some traction late last month when a proviso was added to the budget bill under consideration by the Washington House.
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Ericks, D-Bothell, the proviso asked Cascadia and Lake Washington College officials to formally study the possibility of merging the two schools on the Lake Washington's Kirkland campus.
Ericks could not be reached for comment, but the proviso was taken out of the budget bill last week, apparently with his blessing.
According to several sources, Ericks was willing to withdraw the proviso if the state legislature adopted a separate bill sponsored primarily by Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and calling for a wide-ranging study of Washington's community college system. That bill was adopted March 7.
According to the language of the measure itself, the general idea is to find efficiencies and ways to cut costs. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges will conduct the study, with a preliminary report due by the end of this year. A final report is not expected until the end of 2011.
At this point, it is unclear if a merging of Cascadia and Lake Washington Technical might become a part of the overall study, but the bill does not appear to directly call for studying a merger of the two schools.
Christopher admitted there was some possibility of the proviso slipping back in to legislation before state lawmakers end their current session, which was supposed to happen March 11. Due to ongoing budget discussions, a special session was slated to begin March 15.
While UW-Bothell officials have publicly stated they did not initiate any merger discussions regarding Cascadia, UW-Bothell spokesperson Elizabeth Fischtziur said those same officials see some positives coming out of a union of Cascadia and Washington Technical.
"We can foresee great benefits to all three institutions," Fischtziur said, including UW-Bothell in the mix.
In UW-Bothell's analysis, she added, two very strong institutions would come together, with Cascadia offering largely a liberal-arts approach and Lake Washington obviously focusing on technical degrees.
Cascadia's exit from the campus it shares with UW-Bothell clearly would give the university a lot of additional, ready-made classroom space. Most notably, Fischtziur and others said UW-Bothell possibly could proceed quickly with creating a science building.
Following the UW-Bothell master plan, Fischtziur said officials are moving forward with designing a new science center. But she added there is probably no funding forthcoming for the construction of such a building any time soon.
For his part, Christopher insisted that moving Cascadia would not benefit students in any particular way. He said the idea of combining some of Cascadia's traditional offerings with the technical offerings of Lake Washington is already under discussion. In the meantime, he argued Cascadia is operating exactly as its creators intended.
According to Christopher, the school — while sitting on a major transportation hub — was meant to act as a feeder to four-year schools, particularly the UW-Bothell. He added 42 percent of Cascadia's graduates continue on to UW-Bothell, while another 28 percent head to the UW main campus in Seattle. Except for Bellevue College, Christopher said no other school provides UW-Bothell with more students. And he added the Bellevue college is much bigger than Cascadia.
Setting aside other reasons he is against any move, Christopher said the idea is cost prohibitive. Lake Washington officials put the estimated price tag for combining the schools at $125 million. Cascadia's estimate put the number closer to $150 million. In any case, Christopher said if the state has that kind of money to spend, they could just go ahead and build UW-Bothell's new science building.
Not incidentally, Christopher contends there is plenty of room for that science building and other structures included in the master plans of both Cascadia and UW-Bothell. He said the current Bothell site could sustain up to 10,000 students.
"There's simply no reason for us to move," Christopher said.