Working closely with other state institutions, the UW asked for higher enrollments and got 695 more spaces. State institutions also proposed a high-speed telecommunications network linking most campuses and saw much of it funded.
UW officials and students worked together on a measure that will improve campus computer access through a student fee. They made a joint effort to pass a $40 per quarter technology fee that will increase campus computer lab space, enhance electronic mail and help students with more computer resources.
"The University is deeply grateful to legislators in both houses and on both sides of the aisle for recognizing the needs of higher education," says President Richard L. McCormick.
"Essential was the cooperation with other institutions. We stuck together with each other throughout the session," he says. The President also praises UW undergraduate and graduate student leaders for their "strong and intelligent efforts" in getting the technology fee passed. "We made a good team," he adds.
The first impact from the state's supplemental budget comes this September, when the UW's three campuses can enroll 695 more full-time students. The UW had originally asked for 780 spaces. "That we are close to what we asked for shows the enormous power of the demographic issue in the Legislature," says University Relations Vice President Bob Edie.
UW Tacoma will get 60 more full-time slots and UW Bothell will receive 68. The main campus will divide its 567 spaces among both undergraduate, graduate and evening degree programs. For example, a new master's in computer science and engineering will be offered that combines evening classes with distance learning.
The Legislature funded a $54 million distance education technology project that covers both higher education and the K-12 system. For the UW, the first phase will create high-speed links between the central campus and the two outlying campuses, plus a satellite uplink to broadcast classes throughout the state.
"The potential is absolutely wonderful," says Government Relations Director Sheral Burkey. "Someday people may be able to take courses in their homes, watching the lecture on their TVs and communicating at the same time on their home computers linked to the Internet."
Computer access was also an issue on campus. Long lines at computer labs and slow links to electronic mail and the Internet prompted the UW to ask for a technology fee. President McCormick told student leaders he would not ask Olympia for the fee without their support. With ASUW President Garrick Hileman and GPSS President Kerry Woolsey, he worked out a formula that gives student representatives a strong voice in approving the fee and deciding where the money is spent.
There was one issue where the two sides parted company. The UW asked for a 10 percent tuition increase for non-residents, to bring the rate closer to the peer average. Students sought to "grandfather" current non-residents at the old rate, but failed. Non-resident tuition this fall will be $9,755 and in-state tuition will be $3,145.
President McCormick says all the money from the increase--about $1.4 million--will go to relieve "bottleneck courses" in undergraduate education. These are high demand courses that students often need in order to declare a major or to graduate. Some of the bottlenecks are basic science courses for pre-medicine and engineering majors; certain writing and mathematics courses; and some social science, arts and humanities courses that meet general education requirements. "This will be a big step toward addressing the problem," he explains.
University Relations VP Edie was gratified that a measure to streamline technology transfer regulations passed by unanimous votes in both houses. The legislation makes clear that a new state ethics law is not intended to discourage private-public partnerships. "We are grateful to the high technology industry in the state, which worked with us on this, as well on the high-speed technology network proposal and on the enrollment side," he notes.
But the challenge of funding higher education during the coming demographic boom remains daunting. Edie and Burkey see the 1997 Legislature as crucial to the future of the UW.
Burkey says the coming "baby boom echo" gets the attention of most legislators. "But how do we get interest in quality issues such as faculty salaries? How do you protect a top-ranked, competitive university in this environment?" she asks.
Other issues include funding the UW's request for new buildings, reducing the time it takes to get a degree, and putting together a stable plan for tuition increases.
Both Burkey and Edie say alumni interest in the UW is crucial to the success the UW had last spring--and will have in the future. The UW Alumni Association has a Legislative Support Network that informs alumni on higher education issues in Olympia. It also sponsors an annual UW Day in Olympia, where alumni have a chance to meet lawmakers during the legislative session.
The association needs volunteers to help develop this network of alumni throughout the state. One goal is to have a contact group of UW alumni in each legislative district. For more information or to volunteer, fill out the attached business reply card or call Bonnie Rush at (206) 543-0540 or (800) AUW-ALUM. Alumni can also send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to (206) 685-0611.
Send a letter to the editor at email@example.com.