UW Federal Way may become reality

By Tamara Young - Staff Reporter

Higher education maybe moving to Federal Way starting in fall 2018 if funding through the Legislature is approved.

Although Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell all but promised a higher education center in the city by this fall, whether that happens may depend on if the city can squeeze $800,000 out of the state Legislature, now partway through a 60-day session in Olympia.

The center, first revealed last summer, would be a partnership between Highline, University of Washington-Tacoma, and the Federal Way School District.

"We have a budget request before the State Legislature in the amount of $800,000 for this initiative and are hopeful that we will get funding either this year or next year," Ferrell said.

"There are two subcommittees that have been meeting to discuss class offerings and short-term locations for classrooms," Ferrell said.

Highline officials are not opposed to the idea, and signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the city last summer.

"It is good to have a three-way collaborative to work hand-in-hand and share resources," the interim President of Highline Dr. Jeff Wagnitz said.

The money will help to build the campus from the ground up and help to pay the teachers as well, Dr. Wagnitz said.

The plan is to offer classes such as computer tech from UW-Tacoma, education from both Highline and the UW Tacoma, and health care, Dr. Wagnitz said.

Highline and UW Tacoma will share the core classes provided for the programs that will be offered.

The campus will provide a closer school for Running Start students or any other students who may not have easy access to either Highline or the university in Tacoma, Dr. Wagnitz said.

Highline had a location in Federal Way, but closed it due to the recession of 2008, Dr. Wagnitz said. Highline has planned to return to Federal Way when the time was right and this initiative has provided a way for the school to make good on that promise, he said.

"There is good evidence that commute times matter as to whether or not people seek higher education," Dr. Wagnitz said.

The campus will be located close to the Federal Way transit center, which will make access to the campus easy because it will be a short walk from the center, Wagnitz. And will be central to both Highline and UW Tacoma.

"The pathway to transfer will be critically important," Dr. Wagnitz said.

The campus will also help facilitate a student's ability to transfer either to Highline or to UW Tacoma to finish their degree.

This way, a student who starts out in the nursing program may switch to Highline and switch to the respiratory program if they choose to, Dr. Wagnitz said.

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