On April 26, the Legislature passed a 1997-99 state budget that included $797 million for the UW in general fund and tuition dollars--a 9.2 percent increase over current levels. The lawmakers responded to the University's number one priority--a faculty and staff salary increase--with a 6 percent raise over two years, but for the first time half of the rise is paid with tuition money.
"We are generally pleased with the overall state budget, yet we continue to be concerned about our competitive salary situation. We'll be able to provide some badly needed salary increases for our faculty and staff, but we'll remain behind our national competition," says UW President Richard L. McCormick.
"Within the spending limits from Initiative 601, it is a good budget," adds University Relations Vice President Bob Edie. The UW budget rose more than the 8.1 percent limit I-601 allows for all state expenditures.( See Budget Highlights Chart.)
UW officials are pleased that, for the first time, the state has set aside a $2.4 million pool to stem the faculty "brain drain." "This retention and recruitment pool is a recognition that there is a serious problem with attracting and keeping the best and the brightest," says UW Director of Government Affairs Sheral Burkey.
Currently the average UW faculty salary ranks in the 36th percentile compared to its peer universities. The state's long-term goal is to reach the 75th percentile.
Even with the pay raise and retention pool, "It's probably not going to close the peer gap much at all," Burkey warns. "We may not lose ground, but with other institutions increasing salaries by 3-4 percent each year, it's unlikely we'll gain any ground either."
Preparing for the coming demographic bulge of college-age adults, the state funded 455 new full-time spots for Seattle, 210 for Bothell and 245 for Tacoma.
To help pay for salary increases and educational enhancements, the Legislature raised resident tuition for undergraduates and graduate students by 4 percent each year. Non-resident tuition will rise by 8.3 percent each year. Law school tuition will rise 7.3 percent for residents each year. One of the session's disappointments, says Burkey, is the lack of a long-term tuition policy. Instead there will be a statewide study on tuition and financial aid.
A buzz word during the session was "accountability." The budget holds back part of each university's funds until that unit makes "measurable and specific" improvements towards certain goals.
The measurements include a graduation efficiency index, retention rates and graduation rates. The state will look at faculty productivity as well. For the UW, $5 million was set aside. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board will release funds as institutions meet the benchmarks.
The capital budget contained mixed results for the UW, says Burkey. The state funded three Seattle projects: Oceanography ($35.3 million), Fisheries ($33.6 million) and the Harborview Research and Training Building ($54 million). The Legislature also approved construction and/or design projects at UW Tacoma ($19.7 million) and UW Bothell ($46 million to be matched by $46 million in the community college budget).
The state did not fund a renovation for Suzzallo Library ($33 million) or a new law school ($32.8 million to be matched by about $20 million in private funds). Rejection of the law school request was particularly troubling, since about $15.5 million in private funding had already been raised, including $12 million from Bill and Melinda Gates.
"The lack of funding for the new law school is very disappointing. We're contacting donors to ask them to maintain their generous commitment to the law school while we reassess the situation over the next few months," says President McCormick.
To learn more about the UW and legislative affairs, send e-mail to Kevin Evanto or visit the Huskies for Higher Education site.
Send a letter to the editor at email@example.com.