A committee of volunteers, including many of the state’s top business and civic leaders, has issued a report recommending a stronger partnership between the University of Washington and the broad community of people that it serves.
The Washington Futures Committee presented its report to the UW Board of Regents Sept. 12. In the report, the committee recommends steps the UW should take that are essential for the state’s future success and suggests ways to strengthen relationships between the university and government and business leaders, as well as community members.
Citing an educated citizenry, technology and engineering expertise, employment opportunities, and healthy, engaged residents as vital components of a successful state, the report suggests strategies to help the state of Washington and its residents excel economically, culturally and socially.
“Reinvesting in higher education is the most powerful way to fuel our state’s economy, to continue drawing the best and brightest people to our state, and to create opportunities for all our citizens,” says William Gates Sr., committee chair.
The Futures report suggests 10 goals for the UW. They are:
1. Enroll more undergraduates, both residents and nonresidents.
2. Keep tuition rates affordable and UW degrees accessible.
3. Attract the best and brightest students and faculty.
4. Deliver more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees, especially in the fields of computer science and engineering.
5. Produce the next generation of leaders.
6. Invest in research to drive innovation and stimulate jobs.
7. Enhance commercialization and technology transfer efforts.
8. Use resources more efficiently and strategically.
9. Expand the use of technology in teaching and research.
10. Strengthen communications and outreach to key stakeholders.
The report calls for a renewed compact between the business community and the UW. “With a strong UW, we can ensure that the next generation of leaders, thinkers and doers is prepared to create a stronger Washington -– and a stronger world,” the report states. It suggests that the business community “should develop funding strategies that support the UW and invest in the UW’s research endeavors.” Among its suggestions is to create a program by which businesses would match state dollars for science, technology, engineering and mathematics enrollments at the UW. The report also suggests the possibility of businesses creating independent funding programs by contributing a set amount to the university for each UW intern they hire.
“The university has the potential to contribute even more to economic growth than at any time in the state’s history,” said committee member Brad Smith, Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel. “To realize this potential, we need the university to expand enrollment capacity in high-demand fields and ensure that a UW degree remains affordable and within reach for all students in our increasingly diverse population. Across the business community and in state government, we need to recognize that the university cannot achieve these goals alone and that we need to provide our support as well.”
The report also calls for a revitalized partnership between the UW and government leaders. While recognizing the budget challenges that state leaders continue to face, the report points out that the state now invests less in its public baccalaureate institutions than it did 20 years ago, and that the UW receives less state funding per student than any of its peer institutions. The report recognizes the importance of the Legislature’s recent funding enhancement to reverse the downward trend in funding.
“We are gratified by the lawmakers’ decision to reinvest in higher education in the 2013-15 budget,” says committee member Judy Runstad, “preventing further decline in state support and allowing the UW to provide more affordable tuition to state residents. This is a major step forward, one on which we hope we can build.”
In addition to increased funding for the UW and higher education generally, the report calls for action by the state to:
- Ensure that the UW can compete for high quality faculty
- Adjust the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program to allow the UW to pursue differential tuition
- Support the UW’s effort to achieve additional administrative efficiencies
Acknowledging the contributions of private donors, the report says philanthropic support may be “the most sustainable and achievable way for the UW to pursue enhancements to its academic programs and financial aid.” It calls on community members to assist the UW by “suggesting innovative fundraising strategies, by participating as campaign chairs, by encouraging matching funds with their employers and local businesses, and by spreading awareness of the connection between financial support for the UW and the state’s future prosperity.”
“It is fundamentally a very wise investment in our collective future for individuals with means to contribute their philanthropic dollars to the spectacular work the university is doing,” says committee member Bill Neukom. “The margin of excellence that is so critical to the success of the university and our region comes from gifts donors make to the university. It is vital that we continue to do so.”
The Futures Committee has pledged to continue its advocacy by meeting with state and local government officials, business leaders, philanthropists, community leaders, editorial boards and business organizations to “create a strong call to action for change.”
“As a state,” the report concludes, “we are at a tipping point. Immediate action should be taken to protect the UW, an institution that is truly central to our citizens’ well-being and is a key contributor to our state’s reputation as a global center of innovation and change.”
“This is an exceptional piece of work by the Futures Committee,” says UW President Michael Young. “These individuals volunteered a significant amount of time and effort to understand the university’s needs and to identify steps that if implemented will help ensure the future greatness of this remarkable institution and its countless contributions to the well-being and prosperity of our region. We are grateful to them and look forward to implementing their recommendations.”
The UW Board of Regents indicated it welcomed the report and will take time to review and study with the administration, faculty and students, the various recommendations. The Board encouraged the Committee to reach out broadly in bringing the report to the attention of the state’s leaders.