State Crisis Could Result in Enrollment Cuts,
March may be the cruelest month of all in the state budget process, warn UW officials as they prepare for new proposals likely to contain dramatic cuts.
Lawmakers are waiting for the state revenue forecast to come out March 19 before releasing their own budget plans, but no one is expecting the state's $2.4 billion deficit for 2003-05 to disappear.
UW officials are hoping these new plans will be less severe than Gov. Gary Locke's December proposal. His two-year budget hit all state agencies hard, leaving the UW with a $61.5 million budget cut and no salary increases for faculty. The state is already $2,100 behind its target for per-student funding at the UW. Locke's cuts would add another $600 to the funding gap.
"The net result is a big, big setback for higher education and for the University of Washington," said Interim President Lee Huntsman at the Jan. 17 regents meeting. "It is a dramatic further drop in taxpayer support per student."
The governor's plan assumed that the UW could increase tuition 9 percent in each year of the biennium and that the added revenue would cover the cuts, but UW Government Relations Director Dick Thompson, '68, says the analysis was faulty. In some categories, a 9 percent increase would put the UW above the market rate for similar schools. Adjusting for what the market could bear, "we would be $29 million behind even with a tuition increase," he says.
At the Jan. 17 meeting, Regent Shelly Yapp, '67, warned of the consequences should the governor's plan make it through the Legislature. "We will have no choice but to make program reductions and make enrollment reductions if we want to preserve quality," she declared.
The only bright spot in the governor's plan was a section for recruiting and retaining college faculty. The UW would get $4.6 million to stem its brain drain. Faculty salaries are currently 9.1 percent behind their peer average and the gap could widen to 12 percent if there is no salary increase.
"I've been in Olympia since 1985 and this is by far the worst budget session I have ever faced," Thompson says. "We have a situation where existing services that are not protected by the constitution are all at risk."
Looking at funding per full-time student, state support has dropped 21 percent since 1991 and would decline to 30 percent under Gov. Gary Locke's budget plan (purple line). Meanwhile, per-student funding at peer institutions (green line) rose 5.1 percent. Source: UW Office of Planning and Budgeting. Dollars are held constant at 1991 level.
UW officials were also disappointed in the governor's capital budget plan. "It's worse than the operating budget," Thompson declares. Only $10 million in regular capital revenue would go to UW critical building needs-about 1 percent of the total capital budget, even though the UW has about 15 percent of all state facilities on its campuses.
The governor did propose bonding lottery revenue for higher education construction. If that proposal is approved, the UW would get $50 million to renovate Johnson Hall (see "Inside Out").
A major tax increase is not expected, so state agencies can expect serious cuts. Higher education should be protected from the worst, Thompson says, because it is the "best tool" for a long-term fix to the financial situation. "There are very few investments the state can make that will pay off in future economic growth, but higher education is one of them."
For more information about legislative proposals affecting the UW, contact the Office of Government Relations at (206) 543-7604, e-mail . To contact lawmakers in Olympia, call 1-800-562-6000.
Alumni Invited to Olympia March 26
All UW alumni are invited to join students, alumni and friends of public colleges and universities at a special Higher Education Day in Olympia held Wednesday, March 26. The day begins with a lunch at the Indian Summer Country Club, 5900 Troon Lane S.E., in Olympia. Gov. Gary Locke and leading lawmakers will attend. After the luncheon, alumni and friends are encouraged to meet with their legislators one-on-one. For more information on Higher Education Day in Olympia, contact the UW Office of Government Relations, (206) 543-7604 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.