WSU Tri-Cities spurs local economy

KENNEWICK - Hundreds of new college graduates turned their tassels today -- getting a degree from Wazzu Tri-Cities. KEPR learned about three quarters of these local grads will stay here and look for jobs. We found that ever since becoming a four-year university, WSU has helped keep the Tri-Cities economy alive.

It's the song these Cougs have anticipated for years. For some, it feels more long-and-coming than ever.

"I've worked so hard; my family and I are very excited," said graduate Elizabeth Gonzalez.

As Elizabeth Gonzalez waits to walk, she stops to remember her time as student. She's surmounted the challenge of mothering five children while juggling school. She graduates with honors.

"I'm probably going to cry," added Gonzalez.

Elizabeth says it's all worth it. She and her family set roots in the Tri-Cities. By getting her degree here, her family continues to contribute to the local economy. They spend a couple thousand a month just on food and housing alone.

Elizabeth is part of the majority of WSU Tri-Cities students who choose to remain here after graduation. The majority spend dollars to keep the economy alive.

"WSU Tri-Cities is here because we need to give access to students who want to live in the Tri-Cities to have higher education because they want to stay here," Tri-Cities Marketing and Communications Manager

WSU Tri-Cities welcomed its first freshmen class in 2007. Rising tuition only impacted enrollment during one academic year. Otherwise class sizes have grown each year since 2007. Applications are up by a third compared to 2011. The school points to its work with the Tri-Cities Research District, Port of Benton and the Chamber to keep boosting the economy. It's about avoiding the 'brain drain' of having educated students go elsewhere.

"I would never move. I love it," said Gonzalez.

Since a four-year university is in town, she didn't have to.

WSU officials tells us its viticulture program plays a big role in supporting the local economy. The new wine center expects to break ground this summer. Washington wine is an almost nine billion dollar industry. University officials hope to triple that in ten years with the Walter Clore Center.