Lawmakers and higher education officials are watching for two important milestones as the state Legislature meets in Olympia for its 2005 session—the latest review forecast, due March 17, and the new budget proposal from Gov. Christine Gregoire, ’69, ’71, due shortly afterwards.
So far there has been a “tremendous amount of interest in higher education,” says UW Director of State Relations Randy Hodgins, ’79, ’83. That was reflected in the December budget proposal by outgoing Gov. Gary Locke, he adds, which suggested boosting the UW’s core funding.
Locke proposed faculty and professional staff pay increases of 3.2 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2006, and he provided more state support for UW research. Hodgins says these increases make “significant progress” toward closing the gap between the UW and its peer institutions, and he hopes the Gregoire operating budget can match or exceed the Locke proposals.
Hodgins adds that while the Locke budget did not include more enrollments for UW campuses, he expects the Gregoire budget will provide for more space for students at all three campuses.
There are some concerns over plans for resident undergraduate tuition. Locke’s budget gave state schools a range of 5 to 9 percent for tuition increases, but limited state funding of the most popular financial aid program to a 5-percent increase. Hodgins says one of the top UW priorities will be fully funded financial aid.
While lawmakers are conducting hearings on higher education, leaders from both parties are waiting for the latest revenue forecast which is rumored to be favorable. The Legislature must have a new state budget in place before it adjourns April 24, or it will have to go into special session.
The capital budget plan from Gov. Locke was a disappointment four-year institutions and especially the UW, Hodgins adds. The UW asked for $157 million and got less than half—$72 million for both new construction and renovations. Increasing state capital support is a very high priority, Hodgins says.
In addition to writing a two-year state budget, lawmakers are wrestling with other higher education issues. There are several proposals to expand offerings at regional campuses of UW and WSU to accommodate more transfers and some freshmen and sophomores (See “Growing Pains,” page 36).
Lawmakers are also considering modifying Initiative 200, which prohibits state agencies such as the UW from considering race and ethnic background in admissions and employment decisions (see “The Road Ahead,” March 1999).
Yet another issue in Olympia is writing “performance contracts” between the state and its two research institutions. Both the UW and WSU would have certain benchmarks, such as graduation rates and retention rates, and promise to meet them. In return, the state would have specific goals as part of a long-range plan to bring funding to a competitive level with peers.
For more information, go to huskiesforhighered.org or contact the UWAA at 206-543-0540 or 1-800-AUW-ALUM.