Politics & Government

Doctoral degrees for UW Tacoma?

Doctoral degrees could be coming to Tacoma.

Under bills introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, branch campuses of the University of Washington and Washington State University would be able to offer doctorate programs. UW Tacoma officials say they are poised to start a program if the measure passes.

“The branch campuses embody some latent capacity, some untapped potential, to take these programs to areas of the state where there’s not as much access,” said Chris Thompson, director of state relations for the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which requested the bills.

Thompson said the proposals would remove a legal barrier to offering doctoral degrees, though it would not fund or set up any such programs.

He said the board had determined that adding the higher-level degrees to branch campuses would be a cost-effective way to grant more degrees in the state because many of the faculty members at branch campuses already are qualified to teach doctorate programs.

UWT spokesman Mike Wark said the Tacoma campus was hoping to offer a doctor of education degree program that would target school and college administrators and prepare nurses and other medical professionals to teach at community colleges.

The Tacoma doctor of education program has gone through the UW approval process, he said, but this legislation would need to pass and the doctorate program would need to be approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Board before it could be offered.

Wark said UWT surveyed people in the area who might be interested in access to an education doctorate program. Of the respondents, 81.9 percent said they would be moderately to very likely to pursue a doctorate program in the next five years .

Setting up an education doctorate program would not cost the state, Wark said, because it would be funded entirely from tuition.

Sen. Randi Becker said she became interested in the issue two summers ago when she began talking to UWT about setting up a program to certify more people to teach nursing and other medical programs at community colleges.

According to a 2008 report by the Washington Center for Nursing, the state will have a work force shortage of about 25,000 registered nurses by 2020 if there are no changes to health and education policy.