4/24/2014

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WSU postpones academic expansion in Everett

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - Washington State University has decided to put off plans to expand its course offerings in Everett until fall 2014 because of legislative inaction, the university announced this week.

In a letter to the Everett mayor, WSU President Elson Floyd said the university has been waiting for the state budget to be finalized before it opens electrical engineering, communications and hospitality management programs in Everett.

Although every legislative budget proposal officials have seen appears to give the university enough money for the expansion, Floyd said says they can't start recruiting students until they know the final plan.

"Our challenge today is that fall classes commence on Aug. 19, just a little over nine weeks away," Floyd wrote in a letter mailed Wednesday to Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and emailed Thursday. "That's precious little time to recruit students and faculty, and to otherwise build new programs in a new location."

Since lawmakers have just started another special session to work on the state budget, Floyd said the university has decided to put off opening the new programs until fall 2014.

WSU began offering classes toward a mechanical engineering degree in Everett in fall 2012.

The Everett program includes some online classes from Pullman and a requirement that students take some laboratory classes on the Pullman campus during the summers.

"I want to assure you we remain steadfastly committed to the North Puget Sound region," Floyd wrote.

Stephanson said he blamed lawmakers, not WSU for the delay.

"I think clearly not having a budget passed by now put WSU in an untenable position," he said. "I put responsibility for this purely on the legislative leadership. I'm not at all concerned about WSU's commitment to Everett and Snohomish County."

WSU also announced this week that it has hired Paul Pitre to be the new chief academic and operations officer for the university's programs in Everett.

Pitre had been on assignment as a special assistant to Floyd to lead WSU's development of educational programs at the University Center of North Puget Sound, in Everett.

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Associated Press correspondent Rachel La Corte in Olympia contributed to this story.
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