House budget proposal would expand higher education access on Kitsap Peninsula

OLYMPIA – The budget proposal released today House Democrats includes funding that expands access to higher education on the Kitsap Peninsula. It allocates money for a four-year early childhood education degree program, and for a feasibility study for a Western Washington University branch campus expansion.

“Kitsap County has never had the same college opportunities as many other areas of the state. We are going to work in partnership with Western Washington University so we can start to give families here the same shot at college that families in Seattle and Spokane have,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who chairs the House Higher Education committee.

Over the next four years, the budget allocates a total of $2.1 million for creation and implementation of an early childhood education degree program at the Western on the Peninsulas campus, in collaboration with Olympic College. Once fully up and running, the program is expected to grant approximately 75 bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education per year.

“The new early childhood education degree program will give people a chance to train for jobs right here in Kitsap County – with the Navy’s early childhood education centers, with our tribes, and elsewhere – so we don’t have to get on a ferry or drive for hours to get to work,” Hansen said.

For the feasibility study, the budget provides one-time funding to explore Western Washington University’s creation of a four-year degree granting campus on the Kitsap or Olympic Peninsula. The University must submit a report on the findings of the study to the Governor and appropriate committees of the Legislature by December 2018.

“Western is deeply committed to helping more Washingtonians access quality higher education. The Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas are some of most underserved areas of the state when it comes to access to four-year higher educational opportunities,” said WWU President Sabah Randhawa. “Western appreciates the support of the state and is excited to have this opportunity to build upon the Western on the Peninsulas initiative in partnership with Olympic and Peninsula Colleges to expand educational opportunities for people throughout the region.”

The House is expected to vote on the budget proposal later this week.