Closing the Gap: Lawmakers Give UW Best Budget in Nearly Two Decades Print

In what could be a turning point in the recent history of state support for higher education, the Legislature passed an operating budget on April 22 that gives the UW its biggest financial boost in nearly two decades. In addition, lawmakers told the UW to plan for a regional campus north of Seattle in the Snohomish-Island-Skagit county region (see box).

It also passed a bill committing the state to closing the per-student funding gap between the UW and its “Global Challenge” peer universities over the next decade. Currently the gap is about $3,700 per undergraduate.

Olympia also gave new enrollments to all three UW campuses and there is an ambitious building and renovation program funded by the best capital budget in a decade.

“We are very pleased with the work our legislators and the governor did this session on behalf of higher education and the University of Washington,” says President Mark A. Emmert, ’75.

“This Legislature established for the first time in our state clear targets to bring funding for our universities in line with those in the global challenge states identified by the governor’s Washington Learns initiative. This budget, in accord with the plan, gets us about a third of the way toward closing the resource gap between us and similar universities in these states.”

The good news started with a $2 billion budget surplus compared to the previous budget cycle. Then came a report in November from the Washington Learns panel emphasizing increased support for all levels of education in the state.

Governor Chris Gregoire, ’69, ’71, and lawmakers made higher education a top priority. When the Legislature passed its $33.4 billion, two-year operating budget, it included a 15 percent increase in taxpayer support for the UW—the largest increase since the 1988–91 biennium—amounting to an additional $105 million.

In total, state appropriations to the UW are nearly $807 million for the next two years. Lawmakers also passed a law limiting in-state undergraduate tuition increases to no more than 7 percent a year. Tuition is currently $5,985 for a resident undergraduate.

The UW had a record number of freshman applications this year and the number of high school seniors in the state will peak in 2010. To help meet the demand, lawmakers included 1,750 new, full-time enrollments for the UW in their budget. This includes 500 undergraduate enrollments in math, science, engineering and other high-demand fields; 330 new graduate enrollments; and 920 new general undergraduate enrollments. The UW may distribute the new slots at the Seattle, Bothell or Tacoma campuses.

“This is also a big year for financial aid,” adds Director of State Relations Randy Hodgins, ’79, ’83. The budget provides a $46 million increase in the State Need Grant Program and expands eligibility. Students from families that earn up to 70 percent of the state median income will now qualify. For a family of four, that is an annual income of about $50,000.  Several new college scholarship programs were also created.

Access to a college degree is one pressing issue, but so is preserving quality, says Hodgins. He notes that faculty pay increases are necessary to recruit and retain the best. The budget includes state funding for an average increase of 3.2 percent in September and 2.0 percent the following year. The UW may supplement the increases with local revenue.

The $143.6 million state capital budget is the highest level of support for the UW in 10 years. It includes full funding of construction for major renovation of Savery Hall, Clark Hall, the Playhouse Theater and the Magnuson Health Sciences Center H-Wing.  There is also $25 million to construct a new primary Data Center in the UW Tower (formerly the Safeco Tower).

Another key element is $6.3 million in state funding for the new Department of Global Health, jointly run by the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. The department plans to launch a new Health Metrics Institute that would also draw support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 2007 - 09 State Budget Highlights
 Operations$806.9 million
15% increase
 New Enrollments1,750
 In-State, Undergrad Tuition7% increase maximum each year
 Faculty Salary Increases*3.2% in 2007
2.0% in 2008
*UW may supplement with local revenue
 Funding Gap with Peers†currently $3,692, budget closes approximately one-third of gap
 Capital Budget $143.6 million
 funds renovations for Savery Hall, Clark Hall, Playhouse Theater, Magnuson Health Sciences Center H-Wing

†Global Challenge Universities: Rutgers, UC-Davis, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, UCLA, Univ. of Colorado, Univ. of Connecticut, Univ. of Maryland, Univ. of Massachusetts, Univ. of Virginia.


UW Asked to Plan for Regional Campus North of Seattle
The Legislature has decided that the answer to meeting higher education needs in the Snohomish-Island-Skagit county area is for the UW to establish a third branch campus. In the 2007–09 capital budget, the University is granted the same authority to govern and operate this campus that it currently has in Bothell and Tacoma. The UW will work with the state Office of Financial Management between now and the next legislative session on issues related to site selection and campus formation. A total of $4 million in new funding is provided. A preliminary report is due back to the Legislature by Nov. 15. Some officials are calling for classes to begin in rented space in the fall of 2008.