Spokane Journal of Business

WSU-Spokane proposes big new nursing facility

School to seek pre-design in next legislative session for $34 million structure

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Washington State University at Spokane says it will ask legislators to approve pre-design funds for a new facility for its College of Nursing, the second of three academic buildings the school hopes to construct at Riverpoint Higher Education Park as part of its master plan for the campus east of downtown.

The new facility would be constructed at the northeast corner of Riverpoint Boulevard and Trent Avenue, adjacent to WSU-Spokanes Health Sciences Building. During the upcoming legislative session, WSU will ask state lawmakers to appropriate $600,000 for pre-design costs, a required hurdle before design and construction can be approved. Although legislators have asked higher-education institutions to scale back requests for funding this session, WSU-Spokane administrators say theyre optimistic that the publics need for more nurses and the universitys desire to pool its resources will outweigh the current economys stranglehold on spending.

Providing adequate nurses is really a public-health issue, not an economic issue, says Dorothy Detlor, dean of the College of Nursing. If we dont address this need, though, there will be an economic impact.

WSUs College of Nursing is currently located in the 60,000-square-foot Warren G. Magnuson Intercollegiate Nursing Building on Fort George Wright Drive near Spokane Falls Community College. WSUs program is part of the Intercollegiate College of Nursing (ICN), which also includes nursing students from Whitworth College, Gonzaga University, and Eastern Washington University.

Rather than expanding that building in its current location, given the lack of proximity to campus and hospitals, it would be better to build that on campus, contends Bill Gray, campus executive officer and dean at WSU-Spokane.

The university estimates the construction cost of the proposed facility would be $34.6 million.

If built, ICN, not just WSUs College of Nursing, would relocate to Riverpoint. The Magnuson building then would likely be sold, Detlor says.

The new structure would likely be three to five stories high and have about 80,000 square feet of floor space, says WSU-Spokane Spokeswoman Barbara Chamberlain. A sky bridge could connect the nursing facility to the Health Sciences Building.

WSU-Spokane also will ask legislators for $32.5 million to construct the Academic Center, a five-story, 91,00-square-foot facility that already has gone through the pre-design and design stages at a cost of $2.25 million. The university hopes to begin construction of that facility in July, if funding for it is approved, Gray says.

Gray calls $600,000 in pre-design costs for the nursing facility not a huge number compared to overall funds, and because of that he believes its more likely to get a nod from lawmakers.

WSU-Spokanes requests, however, come at a time when lawmakers are projecting a $2 billion budget shortfall for the 2003-2005 biennium. Talk of tuition increases and enrollment caps already is trickling out of Olympia.

If pre-design money for the nursing school is approved this session, the project would need to advance through two more sessions before construction could begin. Gray estimates that the building would be constructed in six to eight years, if everything goes as the university hopes in Olympia.

The need to school more nursing students is a driving force behind the facility, says Detlor.

With adequate state funding we could support more students, she says.

Students attend their school of origin for two years before applying to the Intercollegiate College of Nursing. If theyre accepted, they attend ICN for two more years to complete a bachelors degree in nursing. Nursing students earn a dual degree from ICN and their school of origin and pay tuition to both institutions.

About 450 students currently are enrolled at ICN, Detlor says. Another 200 take ICN classes through the Washington Higher Education Telecommunication System, video conferencing arrangement.

WSU-Spokane administrators say the ICN has outgrown the Magnuson facility, which was built in 1980 with federal funds. ICN turned away two-thirds of its qualified applicants last spring, says Detlor.

A larger building would mean room for increased enrollment and more staff, she says. With its proximity to academic programs in the Health Sciences Building, such as the pharmacy program, faculty members could participate in collaborative research, she says. The college is considering adding a doctoral program in nursing, according to Detlor.

With more space we could have other specialty areas, says Susan Nielson, public relations director for the WSU College of Nursing.

The sole practice lab in the Magnuson building is about the size of two regular classrooms. Four faculty members have converted one small, stark classroom into an office space. Theyve clustered their four desks together in the center of the room.

On Magnusons second floor are offices, as well as the schools 4,500-square-foot library. If a new facility is built, the nursing schools volumes would be held in the main college library.

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