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National CrossTalk Fall 1999
News Editorial Other Voices Interview

4 of 6 Stories

By William Trombley and Carl Irving
MERCED, CALIFORNIA

THE STATE OF WASHINGTON is finding out if a two-year community college and a senior university branch can live happily ever after on the same piece of land. Last fall, 1,470 Cascadia Community College students joined almost the same number from the University of Washington's Bothell branch on a new campus in this suburban community, 20 miles northeast of downtown Seattle.

The two schools have separate faculties, classrooms and laboratories but they are sharing a library, a bookstore, parking, food services and maintenance and security staff. So far, so good. Cascadia's fall enrollment exceeded expectations, while UW Bothell met its target. Administrators and faculty members at both institutions say the sharing of facilities, especially the library, has gone more smoothly than expected.

"Our agreements with Cascadia-who cuts the grass? Who handles security? All those kinds of things-seem to be working well," said UW Bothell Chancellor Warren Buck. "We're all surprised at how well it's working," Victoria Munoz Richart, Cascadia's president agreed.

The state Legislature authorized this "co-location" experiment six years ago, to prevent the ten-year-old university branch and the brand-new community college from building separate campuses less than five miles apart.

 
Restoring this salmon stream to a “fish-friendly” state will cost the UW Bothell-Cascadia campus about $7.5 million.  
The thinking was that one campus would be cheaper than two and might lead to richer educational experiences for students at both institutions. But cost-saving hopes have evaporated. More than $150 million has been spent on the new campus so far. By the time full-time enrollment reaches 3,000, the cost of land, design and construction will have risen to $225 million, according to Jim Reed, deputy director of the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Academically, the arrangement already has proven beneficial for the community college students, who have access to a much larger library, and better classroom and lab facilities than two-year schools usually provide. Eventually, they also will benefit from the "richer intellectual environment that co-location is going to create," Cascadia President Richart predicted.

However, the degree of academic cooperation between the two institutions has yet to be determined.

"It's very exciting to think of the possible interactions with the UWB (University of Washington, Bothell) faculty-perhaps some joint seminars and other things like that," Brian Bansenauer, who teaches computer programming and web site development at Cascadia, said in an interview last summer.

In a second interview, after the fall quarter ended, Bansenauer said, "there has been quite a lot of faculty-to-faculty interaction" but "we're not quite at the stage where we know how a lot of these interactions will develop."

Some doubt that UWB faculty members, who teach upper division (junior and senior) and graduate courses will have much in common with the community college instructors.

 
  University of Washington, Bothell, student Gail Merriman studies as construction of the combined UW Bothell-Cascadia Community College campus continues behind her.
"We're trying to be good neighbors; we don't have a high fence between us," said Stanley Slater, director of the UWB business program and former vice chancellor for academic affairs. "That said, it's clear the culture and value systems of the two institutions will be very different."

UWB Chancellor Buck began an interview this way: "I want to make this really clear: We're two separate institutions that happen to be on the same campus. Our students, faculty and staff have a University of Washington brand and, more than that, a University of Washington, Bothell, brand.

"It's possible that some courses could develop into partnerships," Buck added. "We'll know more in a year. Right now, it's just theoretical."

State higher education officials are more interested in providing additional access to higher education than they are in whatever cross-campus courses or joint faculty seminars might evolve at Bothell.

"The goal was to provide additional lower division and upper division capacity in an under-served area," Jim Reed said.

Although future college enrollment projections have been scaled back, the state of Washington still expects at least an additional 70,000 undergraduates by the year 2010. If expectations are fulfilled, the Bothell campus eventually will meet part of that need by accommodating a full-time enrollment of 10,000-6,000 at UWB and 4,000 at Cascadia Community College.

"Access is the key in this state," said Scott Morgan, director of financial services for the state's community and technical college system. "That's been the biggest higher education issue of the last ten years."

While Washington's enrollments have been strong at the lower division (freshman and sophomore) level, upper division enrollment ranks 46th in the nation, and bachelor's degree production has been relatively low.

To try to correct these problems, the state in recent years has opened upper division branch campuses of the University of Washington and Washington State University; has encouraged joint use of facilities by two- and four-year campuses; and has tried in various ways to ease the transfer of students from community colleges to university campuses. Now they are trying co-location.

This approach has had a spotty record around the country. Two-year and four-year institutions generally consider that they inhabit different universes and cooperation is difficult. Faculty members at four-year schools tend to look down on community college instructors.

David Habura, who was president of Cascadia College in the early planning stages, once put it this way: "Walls are built up. They (university people) are afraid we're going to water the soup."

Perhaps the nation's most successful co-location example is the Auraria Higher Education Center in downtown Denver, where the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University and the Denver branch of the University of Colorado co-exist on a 127-acre campus. Total enrollment is about 33,000. However, it took many years of legislative pressure to persuade the three institutions to stop feuding with one another.

Many other co-location efforts have faltered, and the idea has not gained much acceptance among college and university administrators.

"The track record for co-location has not been very good but we're determined to make it work here," UWB Chancellor Buck said.

In Washington, the higher education coordinating board thought that placing the University of Washington branch and the community college on the same piece of land made more sense than building separate campuses. The board convinced the legislature, and the 1994 bill creating the Cascadia Community College District said the new two-year school should be built on the same campus as UW Bothell, which was moving to a permanent location after ten years in leased business park space.

But the 128-acre site, one of the few available large parcels of land in this built-up suburban area, cost more than anticipated-$22 million. Almost half of the acreage is wetlands, so millions more are being spent to protect salmon and other endangered or threatened species.

 
Richard Mortenson teaches a class in computer networking, part of the Business and Information Technology program at Cascadia Community College.  
By the time the conservation project is finished in two or three years, 400,000 trees, shrubs and bushes will have been hand-planted, and a stream will have been re-routed to make it more "fish friendly." The cost will be at least $7.5 million.

"Expense is not the issue," Chancellor Buck said, "not if it is realized that, ten or 15 years down the road, we will have a scientifically interesting model for others to copy. We have the largest wetlands reclamation project in the state right here on campus. It's a wonderful research lab."

Buck, a nuclear physicist who came to UWB from Hampton University in Virginia, said he hopes to build up both science and engineering at Bothell, which, he pointed out, lies "at the heart of the high tech corridor that runs from Redmond (home of Microsoft) to Everett."

The chancellor said the higher education coordinating board has approved UWB's first bachelor's degree in environmental science, which "opens the door for us to bring to this community more science and technology." Campus officials expect early approval for two other new degree programs-a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Policy Studies.

How well this emphasis on business, science and technology will mesh with the Cascadia Community College curriculum is not clear.

Cascadia stresses interdisciplinary classes, team teaching and a "learning-centered" approach to education, along with intensive counseling of students, to try to reduce the high drop-out rate that plagues almost every community college, everywhere.

President Richart came to Cascadia in July, 1998, from the huge Los Angeles Community College District, where she learned "how easy it was for us to become isolated, to protect our own territory and not think about the college as a whole," she said in an interview. In her new job, Richart is trying for a new style.

"I think collaboration brings out the best in people," she said. "I think the principles of team building and collaboration that I wrote about in my doctoral dissertation (at UCLA) actually do work."

The president has divided her small faculty of 17 full-time instructors and 25 part-timers into interdisciplinary "learning outcomes" teams, organized around themes such as "learning actively" or "thinking creatively."

Computer specialist Bansenauer, who came to Cascadia from the University of Wisconsin's Eau Claire campus, is a member of the "learning actively" team, along with instructors in English, mathematics and psychology. "The interdisciplinary model was attractive to me," he said. "I tried to do it at the University of Wisconsin but found it very difficult."

Bansenauer said the team is still "feeling its way" but already has come up with several ideas for interdisciplinary courses that might be offered in the winter and spring quarters.

During the fall quarter, "everybody was in a frenzy, just trying to get the lights turned on and get started," said Jack Bautsch, Cascadia's vice president for student success, a job he described as a "bridge between academic affairs and student services."

This winter and spring "we'll have more time to devote to the learning communities" and other learning activities that could mark Cascadia as an unusual community college, Bautsch added.

This "learning community" approach to higher education is a far cry from the emphasis on research in science and technology that Chancellor Buck and others at UW Bothell are talking about.

There are other, perhaps more obvious, differences between the university branch and the community college.

UWB faculty members teach less and are paid more than their Cascadia counterparts. Most UWB professors teach two or three classes per quarter, while their Cascadia counterparts will teach three, four or even five. Average pay for a UWB professor in fall, 1999, was $58,299, while Washington was paying community college instructors with the same amount of experience less than $45,000.

The state provides more money for universities than for community colleges. Both UW Bothell and Cascadia are above average for their systems but the $10,000 UWB receives for each full-time student is considerably more than Cascadia's $7,000.

Some see this as a fatal weakness in efforts to gain cooperation between the two institutions.

"Every time Victoria (Richart) sits down to negotiate an agreement with UWB about library services or security on campus or whatever, she brings less money to the table than Warren Buck does," said one former statewide higher education official. "That creates an inevitable tension and puts Cascadia at a distinct disadvantage."

 
  By 2010, the new campus is expected to enroll 10,000 fulltime students—6,000 at the University of Washington branch, 4,000 at Cascadia Community College.
Suzanne Smith-Kratz, director of facilities planning, design and construction for the new campus, said, "the legislature has to step up and fund this project at an appropriate level." Richart insisted that the funding discrepancy has not been a problem in what she described as "tough negotiations" with UWB officials over who pays for what on the jointly-occupied campus. "Everything that has come to the table so far has been at the university level and we have been able to match it," she said.

But the president acknowledged that differences in pay and teaching loads "will be a real challenge as we move ahead."

Most of these problems can be solved, and co-location can work "if there's good cooperation at the top," said Jan Yoshiwara, director of educational services for the state technical and community college system.

Before the fall quarter began, relations between Chancellor Buck and President Richart were strained, and some statewide officials feared for the future of the co-location experiment. But once classes began and the everyday routine of a college campus-two-year or four-year-began to take hold, conditions improved.

"For awhile there, it was like watching two porcupines making love," one of these officials said, "but now things seem to be going along pretty well." u

- William Trombley -

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