WSU eyeing OC for four-year degree program

POULSBO – Washington State University is considering bringing a four-year engineering degree to Olympic College, but budget strains prevented a school official Wednesday from saying if, or when it might happen.

On the same day, an Olympic College announced the school finalized a property purchase at its Poulsbo campus and will begin focusing on serving Running Start students at North Kitsap and Kingston high schools.

But like other higher education institutions, money may delay development of the site.

Currently Washington State offers the four-year degrees in engineering at its main campus in Pullman and at its branch campuses in the Tri-Cities and Vancouver.

If Olympic College were selected for the degree program, it would be the first community college to house a Washington State bachelor’s degree program in the subject field.

“I know we are seriously looking at it,” Robert Olsen, associate dean of college of enigneering and architecture, said Wednesday. “We would like to do this, I will say that.”

However, with money woes at the state level Washington State officials are investigating whether to expand the engineering program at a time when the department, and university, is reducing its budget.

The engineering college has been asked to cut 11.7 percent of its budget, or $1.95 million out of $16.6 million, according to a letter from the college to alumni. As a whole, the university expects a 10.38 percent cut over the next two-year state budget cycle.

Olympic College was given 30 full-time positions by the Legislature to develop the program, and because of considering the expansion, Olsen said.

“A group of people here are working on that to see how viable it might be,” Olsen said.

The state has also put a hold on capital projects, which could set out Olympic College’s plan to expand its Poulsbo campus, said Kristin Poppo, director of extended learning. Poppo said the property purchased, about 4.5 acres, brings the total of the campus to about 24 acres total.

The property owned by Olhava Associates was bought for $1.5 million, according to college administration.

The college plans to develop the site into a larger campus to serve more students. The first construction project would be a 40,000-square-foot instruction building north of the current instruction building, roughly the same size.

Because of the state’s financial woes, construction may not begin for 10 years.

“It really is dependent on the state budget,” she said.

The school’s four-year nursing program will move out of the Poulsbo campus next summer. It’s new home will be at the Bremerton campus, Poppo said, largely because of its proximity to the library, Harrison Medical Center and child care.

At the same time, administrators are considering how to increase the number of liberal arts courses at the Poulsbo campus to accommodate the number of Running Start students at high schools in the north Kitsap area.

“Right now there are a bunch of conversations going on,” Poppo said.

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