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Students have three new avenues to earn that coveted bachelor’s degree — all promising eased entrance requirements, flexible schedules and moderate price tags.

Prompted by this state’s lackluster track record for handing out B.A.s –30th in the nation — the Legislature has kicked in money for new B.A. programs designed especially to knock down barriers for those who are less well off and older students with family responsibilities.

Here is a look at the trio of new options:


The University of Washington’s two branch campuses at Bothell and Tacoma can be attractive alternative routes to a four-year, UW-quality education now that they’re accepting freshmen — especially as it gets tougher to gain admission to the main Seattle campus.

A proposed new Snohomish County branch of the UW — with a mandate to focus on science, engineering and technology — may be a third alternative in the next several years.

Assuming the Legislature approves a location this fall, upperclass courses may begin in fall ’08 in a temporary location, with freshmen being admitted likely several years later.

A big selling point: It’s much easier to get into the branches. Average high-school GPAs of freshmen admitted to the branches this fall were significantly lower than at UW Seattle’s: 3.5 GPA at Bothell and 3.23 in Tacoma versus 3.69 for UW Seattle. Average SATs were lower, too: 1080 at Bothell, 977 at Tacoma, 1203 at Seattle.

Plus: Classes are usually smaller at the branches, commutes easier for those living nearby, and, as most students live at home, there’s no dorm rent to pay.

The Bothell and Tacoma campuses — which have historically only accepted juniors and seniors — admitted their first freshman classes last fall.

In a bit of a surprise to the university, Bothell’s first freshman class were all recent high-school grads. More of a mix of older and teenage students had been expected. Tacoma had a similar profile.

But the branch campuses had many more freshmen who were the first in their families to attend college; compared to UW Seattle’s 13.2 percent, some 40 percent at Bothell and 58 percent at Tacoma.

However, despite the demand for freshman slots — both branches received more than 500 applications for their freshman classes this year, enrolling close to 200 — serving upper-class transfer students will remain the branches’ primary mission.

The disadvantage of the branch campuses over Seattle is their more limited course offerings. For instance, UW Tacoma offers just eight bachelor’s degree programs ranging from business administration to urban studies, with three to five new majors planned for fall 2008. Bothell offers five, including a B.A. in Applied Computing that began this fall.

But the branches are making some changes to accommodate their underclassmen and women: Bothell hired new faculty and added courses in biology, land use, geography, science, math and more. Tacoma’s also added new faculty in math, science, English and more.

Tacoma’s chancellor, Patricia Spakes, says the campus also has added some amenities to enhance the college experience: a fitness center, a budding intramural activities program, a soccer club, a ping-pong club, and a basketball court.

The new facilities benefit the whole student body, Spakes says, but were designed for, and with help from, the freshman class.

“This group is really interested in having an experience as much like a residential campus as they could get,” she says. “They’re not just going to classes and going home.”


Three community colleges now offer four-year degrees through a pilot program that began last fall.
The “University Contracts” program, which partners community colleges with four-year institutions, is designed to add degrees in areas the community has identified as high-need. Students pay the tuition of a regional state university and get a program with similar-quality content and faculty but get to take classes at their local community college, on a late-afternoon/early-evening schedule designed to fit around work.

Here are the three pilots:

Edmonds Community College, partnered with Central Washington University: bachelor of applied science in information technology or administrative management;

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, with Central Washington University: bachelor of arts in elementary education.

Clark College in Vancouver, WA., with Eastern Washington University: bachelor of arts in social work.

These programs are starting small — just seven freshmen began Edmonds’ university-contract degrees last year, for instance — but are expected to add students.

At Pierce College, funding permitted 30 full-time students last year, and expands to allow 60 students this year.
Working adults who need four-year degrees to advance their careers are the primary target audience.


Another new program that started this fall focuses on bringing back students who’ve previously earned A.A. degrees to finish two more years of study and earn a B.A. The programs are designed so A.A. grads will already have the needed qualifications and can dive right into upper-level course work. The initial four programs, run by community colleges without a partnership with a four-year institution, are:

bachelor of applied science in hospitality management at South Seattle Community College;

bachelor of applied science in radiation and imaging sciences at Bellevue Community College;

bachelor of science in nursing at Olympic College (in Kitsap and Mason Counties);

bachelor of applied science in applied management at Peninsula College (on the Olympic Peninsula);

Two more applied-B.A. degrees are coming, in fall 2009; a decision on what or where they’ll be is expected by March.
At about $154 per credit, tuition is modest, on par with the regional state four-year schools — Central, Eastern orWestern Washington universities — but more than BCC’s $81 a credit.

The programs are tailored for working adults, offering night and/or weekend classes. The advanced degrees help workers in these respective fields move up to management positions.

Source: National Center for Higher Education Management Systems 2005 data show Washington ranked 30th among states for bachelor degrees awarded at in-state institutions per 100 high-school graduates.

Source: National Center for Higher Education Management Systems 2005 data show Washington ranked 30th among states for bachelor degrees awarded at in-state institutions per 100 high-school graduates.