The state’s two research universities will be permitted to develop doctoral programs at branch campuses under legislation requested by the HECB and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday.
HB 1586 authorizes the University of Washington and Washington State University to develop doctoral programs at their branch campuses, subject to HECB approval of specific degree programs. Prior to the new legislation, branch campuses were authorized to provide only baccalaureate and master’s programs.
Except for the addition of doctoral programs, the primary mission of branch campuses remains unchanged under the new legislation: to provide baccalaureate and graduate opportunities in underserved areas of the state in collaboration with community and technical colleges. The top priority is to expand courses and degree programs for transfer and graduate students.
The provisions in HB 1586 are intended to address a serious need for more graduate degree production in the state. Washington lags behind many states in per capita production of graduate and professional degrees in the typical age range for students pursuing such degrees.
At least one university branch campus is already moving ahead with plans for a doctoral program. The University of Washington Tacoma announced Friday that it is working on a proposal to offer a doctor of education degree.
HB 1586 reflects a recommendation in the System Design Plan adopted by the HECB in 2009 and endorsed by the Legislature last year. It established a process for boosting degree production, in part by making full use of existing capacity in the state higher education system. Among other things, the plan recommended expanding graduate education at comprehensive institutions and branch campuses.
Governor Gregoire also recently signed two other pieces of legislation requested by the HECB this year. HB 1424 establishes more consistent loan payment requirements and reduces administrative costs for two similar conditional loan programs for teachers and health professionals. Meanwhile, HB 1425 is expected to produce savings by eliminating a requirement that the HECB submit reports to the Legislature on a Health Sciences and Services Authority in Spokane.