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Funding approved to study four-year baccalaureate program

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County writer

The Washington State Legislature recently approved a $212,000 allocation to study the options for establishing a four-year baccalaureate program in Kitsap County.

“This represents a great opportunity for Kitsap County,” said 26th District Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), who sponsored the bill that included the funds. “We have received a constant message from employers in our area that they would welcome this kind of access to educational opportunities.”

The allocation, which was still part of the Senate budget and has received approval from Gov. Chris Gregoire, will direct the Higher Education Coordination (HEC) board to prepare a program and operating plan for a local higher education center.

In doing so, the HEC board would assemble an advisory committee consisting of education, business and legislative members to examine the possibilities.

In this respect, Kitsap County is already at an advantage because members for such a committee are already in place.

After the study is completed, the most likely result will be the establishment of a “university center,” from which four-year programs will be organized and distributed.

This will not resemble a four-year college, nor will it contain aspects of standard campus life.

Accordingly, it will be a lot less expensive to build than a new college or university. Kilmer said some additional funds may be required, but the preceding study will ensure those funds are well spent.

“We need to identify our needs,” Kilmer said. “For this reason, it is important to do all our analysis up front.”

Kilmer’s Senate Bill 5978 was cosponsored by fellow Kitsap colleagues Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) and Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Kitsap County) who were instrumental in helping it move from the Senate Higher Education Committee, where Kilmer and Sheldon serve together, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where Rockefeller has a seat.

Once the bill passed from Higher Education to Ways and Means, its request for funding was incorporated into the 2008 Proposed Senate Operating Budget.

After being approved by the Senate, the proposed budget was sent to the House for consideration — where the six members who represent Kitsap County in that chamber went to work supporting it.

“In the face of rising costs to cross the Sound, either by ferry or road, it’s become increasingly important to have a baccalaureate program here in Kitsap for local students,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo). “This would also be an economic engine for our community. Taking this first step is a huge win for us.”

Kilmer said the success in passing the allocation — which was in serious doubt just one week ago — was attributable to a joint effort by several levels of community leadership.

“One of the things that we can be really proud of is how this came together,” he said. “Local businesses, community leaders, commissioners and mayors all made this a priority, which is why it succeeded.”

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