EVERETT - Snohomish County will soon graduate into the ranks of U.S. counties that offer four-year college educations.
Now the nation's largest county without a four-year college, Snohomish County has been chosen as the new home for Henry Cogswell College, a specialty school that offers bachelor's degrees in computer science, engineering and engineering technology.
That college, which now offers only night and weekend classes, is moving in August from Kirkland to downtown Everett. Its expansion plans include adding a full day-class program and five more majors, yet to be determined.
In addition, the state Legislature has approved a $150,000 study of higher-education needs in Island, Skagit and north Snohomish counties. That study is expected to confirm the need for a broader upper-division college-degree program.
Everett hopes the state will build that hoped-for school on city-owned land along the Snohomish River. If built, it's expected to incorporate new long-distance communication technologies to allow students to take classes electronically rather than in person, reducing the size of the campus needed.
Snohomish County legislators from both parties worked hard this year to get that college-study money into the budget, said state Sen. Jeannette Wood, R-Woodway.
"I'm delighted," she said. "We tried to get the money last year and didn't get it. For some reason, this year there was a real feeling for higher education. . . . We're all happy about it."
Gov. Mike Lowry is expected to sign the legislation, part of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board's operating budget, on March 30.
An Olympia consultant concluded in 1994 that by 2012, there will be the equivalent of nearly 4,400 full-time college students in the Everett area with no school to attend. That area was defined as central and north Snohomish County, plus Skagit and Island counties.
Cogswell College, founded in 1979, will occupy two floors of the former Bon Marche building on Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett.
A small satellite campus also will be established in Kent or Renton once a site is located.
"We were originally established by invitation of The Boeing Co.," said college spokesman Richard Doughty. "In 1979 - at that time 90 percent of our enrollment was Boeing employees."
Today, Boeing workers account for about 55 percent of the college's 180 students, he said. Many other students work for Nintendo, Microsoft and John Fluke Manufacturing Co., he said.
The college's 15-year plan includes expanding its enrollment to more than 1,000 students, Doughty said.