Bellevue College and Washington State University should move forward in their exploration of whether a merger would make sense.

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CREATIVITY will be required to increase the capacity of Washington’s higher-education system enough to support its growing population and workforce demands.

A prime example is the potential merger of Bellevue College and Washington State University, which the schools have been discussing over the last six months.

The idea is to create an entirely new model — a hybrid called “WSU-Bellevue College” — that would provide a mix of associate and bachelor’s degrees, and perhaps even graduate degrees.

This is still in the conceptual stage, but the effort could eventually result in Bellevue becoming the home of a major, residential university, not to mention new options for local students to launch or accelerate their careers.

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With or without WSU, Bellevue College is on the cusp of graduating to a higher level. It’s preparing to erect residential buildings to house some of its roughly 33,000 annual students.

The college is also mulling new degree programs, such as a three-year bachelor’s in computer science designed for the growing number of students taking advanced-placement computer science in high school. As part of WSU, it could launch such programs faster, without having to first obtain approval from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

A merger might prove too complex, costly or politically challenging, especially in a state that struggles to agree on funding basic education.

Any partnership must also be structured in a way that preserves the accessibility and affordability that have been key to Bellevue College’s success.

Bellevue College President David Rule and WSU President Elson Floyd are close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would formalize the discussion and start serious analysis of what they could accomplish together.

They should proceed and continue exploring the options in a transparent manner.