Published Sept. 20, 2013
By Ty Beaver, Tri-City Herald
State lawmakers focused on higher education made a quick tour of Mid-Columbia colleges Thursday to talk to professors and administrators about their work.
Washington State University Tri-Cities Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young highlighted the university’s partnerships with the private sector and student recruitment efforts. He touted programs focused on teaching, sustainable energy and wine science.
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she couldn’t have been happier about what she heard.
“Many of our residents learned their (viticulture) skills for a different climate,” Kohl-Welles told Moo-Young after his presentation. “That’s why it’s so critical to have WSU Tri-Cities.”
The senator and other members of the Washington Legislature’s Joint Higher Education Committee were in the Mid-Columbia as part of a tour of universities and community colleges.
Lawmakers and college officials said the visit provided a rare opportunity for lawmakers from outside the region to see the accomplishments and challenges of higher education outside of the state’s flagship universities in Seattle and Pullman.
“It lets them see in detailed ways what’s going on,” said Columbia Basin College President Rich Cummins.
The committee visited CBC’s Health Sciences Center on Thursday morning in Richland before heading to WSU Tri-Cities’ campus, with a final stop later that day at Yakima Valley Community College. Committee members went to Whitman University and Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla on Wednesday.
Committee member and state Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, said the committee had been working to arrange a tour of colleges and universities in the eastern portion of the state for years. He often talks about CBC’s and WSU Tri-Cities’ programs with lawmakers but that isn’t as powerful as actually seeing the work being done.
“We’re getting the information we need,” Haler said.
The visits provided an opportunity for Cummins and Moo-Young to show how their institutions benefit the state, such as work force training at CBC or the work in wine science at WSU Tri-Cities lauded by Kohl-Welles.
But Cummins also told the lawmakers there’s going to be an increasing need for nurses and other health professionals in the next few years, meaning CBC’s nursing program may need a boost.
Moo-Young spoke of the importance of the state’s contributions to joint ventures with federal and private groups at WSU Tri-Cities, yielding projects such as the Wine Science Center breaking ground next week.
The committee is expected to take its findings back to Olympia when the next legislative session starts. There are no guarantees about what the committee officially will consider but its members at least know that there’s important work in education going on in the Mid-Columbia, college officials said.
“Having our state leaders come really helps overcome the Cascade curtain,” said Melissa O’Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities’ spokeswoman.
Published with permission of the Tri-City Herald. Additional news stories can be accessed online at the Tri-City Herald.
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