UW-Tacoma + Highline = Federal Way?
By Jessica Strand and Cinthia Velez-Regalado - Staff Reporters
Highline and the University of Washington Tacoma have agreed to work together to bring higher education to Federal Way.
The agreement is intended to move higher education to Federal Way, said Lisa Skari, Highline vice president for Institutional Advancement.
"We've been working on this for several years and there has been quite an effort on the part of the city to create a higher education initiative in Federal Way," said Mayor Jim Ferrell.
Highline has had a plan to bring higher education to Federal Way for a long time as well, said Dr. Jeff Wagnitz, acting president of Highline.
"We used to rent space in Federal Way but we pulled out in the budget cuts of '07, '08, and we promised once we had the resources we would try to come back in," he said.
In the early 2000's Highline had classes available in the city of Federal Way. The difference between this time and last time there was a building in Federal Way is there is more partners, said Skari. Plus, not just that but last time Highline was renting the building they were in but this time there will be an actual building.
"We're looking at what is sustainable," said Skari.
Although Highline and Federal Way have been wanting to bring higher education to Federal Way for quite some time, the pieces didn't come together until UW Tacoma came on board, Dr. Wagnitz said.
"Once they said, 'Hey, we might be interested in helping,' then that's when the pieces fell together," he said. "Now you have a 4 year reputable institution who wanted to work with us because we can provide the lower division courses to prepare students for their upper division study at that site."
Highline and UW Tacoma intend to use the two plus two model which is the first two academic years will be done by students at Highline and the second two years of the students' academic career would be finished at UW Tacoma, said Skari.
There isn't a big concern of Highline competing with its self since it will provide targeted courses in Federal Way, Dr. Wagnitz said.
"We would choose programing to place there delibritly, so we would delibritly avoid competing with ourselves," he said. "And there are unserved populations in the community based on distance from the campus."
As a case study, the addition of first the University of Puget Sound Law School in Tacoma, and then the addition of UW Tacoma had a positive effect on the economy and growth of Tacoma, said Mayor Ferrell.
"That [the University of Puget Sound Law School] was there for 20 years and really revitalized the downtown. And then … UW Tacoma moved in on the other side of town, and that is really a great example of the multiple benefits, if you will, of a higher education presence," Mayor Ferrell said.
Having higher education in a community serves as a catalyst for economic development, Mayor Ferrell said.
"Just think all that infrastructure, and all the attraction of the people from university professors and educators to administrators, students and that sort of vitality."
"We initiated a need assessments study in October of 2015 -- the cost of that study was $75,000," Mayor Ferrell said. "Then there was a concerted effort over the course of the past year to interview stakeholders -- educators, students, Highline, the business community, to assess the need in federal way."
Federal Way had initially been in talks with several other universities, but Highline and UW Tacoma made the most sense, Mayor Ferrell said.
"The discussion on the physical 'What is it going to look like?' is very preliminary," Dr. Wagnitz said. "One idea, and I stress this is one idea, that was thrown out was that the city school district might host classes in space that they have in the district offices, rather than in a school building."
The Federal Way School District, Highline and UW Tacoma would all work together to provide a high school through college pathway for members of the community, Wagnitz said.
The next steps in this process is to form two committees, Mayor Ferrell said. The first committee would talk about curriculum, while the second would discuss physical location, he said.
The city will help with location and funding because both Highline and UW Tacoma have indicated that they don't have the funding for the campus, said Skari.