What kind of university should UW Tacoma be?

Editor’s note: The Index’s technology column – usually written by Dana Greenlee and sometimes by her husband, Rob – will return next week.

Should the University of Washington Tacoma respond to the increasing demand for university degrees by growing substantially? What kind of new programs should the University add? Should UW Tacoma be open to freshmen and sophomores as well as juniors and seniors?

The University of Washington Tacoma is inviting South Puget Sound residents to answer these and other questions about the future of UW Tacoma by completing an online survey at www.tacoma.washington.edu/uwtfuture. The anonymous survey can be completed anytime between now and July 30.

South Sound residents are also invited to attend a community forum at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Tacoma Room (GWP 320) on the UWT campus at South 19th Street and Pacific Avenue.

The survey is part of a study mandated by House Bill 2707. The state law requires that four of the upper-division campuses established in Washington in 1990 – UW Tacoma, UW Bothell, Washington State University, Vancouver, and WSU, Tri-Cities – each perform a self-study and make recommendations about their respective futures to the Higher Education Coordinating Board by Nov. 15. The HEC Board will add its recommendations and submit a report to the Legislature in January.

“The questions we are asking of the community are based on questions the state Legislature is asking us,” saidJack Nelson, UW Tacoma’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. “UW Tacoma is the public university of the South Puget Sound community, and we very much want to hear residents’ hopes and aspirations for our future.”

Media reported that when Gov. Gary Locke signed the bill, he chuckled and said, “Our branch campuses are going to get to tell us what they want to be when they grow up.”

UW Tacoma and its sister campuses currently enroll only junior- and senior-level students and students seeking postbaccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. The new law asks the upper-division campuses to explore ways to improve the two-plus-two system, in which students complete the first two years of coursework toward a bachelor’s degree at a community college, then transfer to UW Tacoma or another college or university to complete the second two years of study.

The law also directs the campuses to explore whether they should offer all four years of study toward a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, UW Tacoma is seeking input on which academic majors and programs to add over the next several years. Other issues to be covered by the study include the role of faculty research on campus and in the community and the level at which each campus should be funded.

“The University of Washington Tacoma is and always will be the destination of choice for transfer students from the region’s community colleges, which means we need to have as many seats at the junior level as there are qualified applicants from these community colleges,” Nelson said.

UW Tacoma has always been closely connected with and committed to the South Puget Sound region. Now, the campus needs broad input from its community.

“We would not be here without the strong support of South Sound residents who want local access to a public baccalaureate education, and as we plan for the future it is very important for us to know what the South Sound wants from us,” Nelson said. “The study we are doing will have a significant impact on how UW Tacoma evolves over the next five to ten years.”

The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates there will be demand for as many as 33,000 more seats in the state’s higher education system by 2008, seats that do not exist today. UW Tacoma and the other campuses doing self-studies expect to supply a substantial number of the needed new seats. Their doing so will require continued and increased state investment in these campuses.

Nelson chairs the study committee, composed of faculty, students, alumni and community members. For more information about the UW Tacoma study, or to fill out the survey, visit www.tacoma.washington.edu/uwtfuture.