Today, the Senate unanimously passed its capital budget plan which includes $60 million for a major development at Eastern Washington University: a long-awaited new science building. Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, heralded the project as a huge accomplishment for the university.
“The need for increased science education is clear. This budget delivers it,” said Baumgartner, a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “We’re very proud of the world-class education EWU delivers and I fought hard to reward their efforts by delivering the funding they need to make this project a reality. This was my sole capital budget request this year and my highest priority for funding.”
The 55-year-old current Science Building is no longer considered adequate for the university’s needs, lacking space and up-to-date health and safety standards. Increased demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes pushed the university to look for ways to offer more classes. Crowded lab environments with ventilation concerns also demanded a more modern facility equipped to handle advanced lab work.
“This is a big win for EWU, but most importantly it’s a big win for the students of our state,” said Baumgartner. “Our biggest higher education priority right now is addressing the demand for more STEM education to meet the growing opportunities for high-paying, rewarding jobs in fields such as computer science and engineering. This builds on the investments we’re already making to increase the number of openings for STEM students.”
The Senate operating budget passed last week included openings for 1,800 new Washington resident students with 70 percent targeted to STEM majors. This results in 300 new student openings at EWU between 2017 and 2019 with 210 slotted for STEM students.
EWU received funding in 2009 to complete pre-design work on a new interdisciplinary science building, but the project has remained on hold until funds could be provided to complete the design and construction phase.