One budget is bad. And the other budget is worse.
Faced with addressing a predicted $9 billion hole in the state budget for the 2009-11 biennium, legislators in both houses have proposed major cuts to higher education funding and have not spared the UW.
Given this grim state of affairs and the widespread concern, Randy Hodgins, director of the Office of State Relations and interim vice president for external affairs, will be conducting a live online chat on the state budget and other key issues in Olympia from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, April 2. Go to http://depts.washington.edu/staterel/wordpress/.
The Washington State Senate has proposed a cut of 23 percent ($189 million), while the House has proposed a cut of 31 percent ($260 million). These numbers do not include possible tuition increases or the impact of federal stimulus funds.
President Emmert called the Senate budget “deeply disturbing,” which also describes his reaction to the House’s budget. “Cuts of this magnitude would seriously damage the UW’s ability to serve the state.” He pointed out that the Senate budget would reduce the number of students at a time of historic demand for higher education, and that those students who were admitted would take longer to graduate because fewer classes would be available. The Senate cuts would mean staff layoffs and job eliminations affecting more than 1,000 individuals.
The House budget, while calling for even larger cuts than the Senate, also aims to keep the same enrollment, inevitably providing fewer resources for educating the same number of students. In an editorial, the Seattle Times said of the House approach, “That is not practical considering the size of the cut.”
President Emmert, in a statement to the UW community, noted that “much debate and consideration of the Senate and House budgets will occur in committee and on the floors of both chambers. We will be working hard during this time to convince legislators to reduce the amount of the cut.”
The UW also will be making a strong case for allowing tuition to increase beyond the levels in the two budgets. The UW currently has the lowest tuition among its comparison group, and even with a 14 percent increase ($875) it would still be among the lowest. Moreover, a chart (http://www.washington.edu/admin/pb/home/pdf/Tuition-Increase-Mitigation-Chart.pdf) by the Office of Planning and Budgeting shows that, for most families earning less than $160,000 a year, a 14 percent tuition increase would have no appreciable impact.