Office of the President

April 28, 2009

The 2009-11 state budget for the UW


Dear students, faculty and staff:

Over the weekend, the Legislature completed the unenviable task of writing and passing a biennial budget during the worst economic period in decades. Any budget that must bridge a biennial shortfall of $9 billion is bound to please no one and to result in serious consequences for the state.

For the University of Washington, the resulting budget decisions are dramatic. The bad news is that the Legislature decided to reduce state funding to the six public four-year college and universities more than any other sector in state government. The University of Washington received the highest percentage cut in all of higher education-26 percent. This is a stark and sobering number.

Beginning July 1, one quarter of our funding from the state will no longer exist. It is unprecedented in state history, and as far as we know, it is by far the largest reduction in state support to a flagship university by any state in the nation. It takes our state funding level back to where it was more than a decade ago and drops the portion of the state budget dedicated to four-year higher education to an all-time low.

The somewhat better news, though it may not appear so to our students and their families, is that the budget authorizes our Regents to increase resident undergraduate tuition up to 14 percent for the 2009-11 biennium, as I described in a previous message to you. Also, our Regents’ authority to set tuition levels for graduate, professional and non-resident students was extended an additional four years, though no decision about those tuition levels has been made yet. If approved by the Regents, tuition for resident undergraduates would increase $875 next academic year and $1,000 the following year.

These increases will partially offset the more dire effects of the state budget cut and, when combined with some federal stimulus funding the state also appropriated, will bring our effective budget cut for the biennium down to about 12 percent. This is still a very large budget reduction-about $50 million in each of the next two years. Moreover, increasing costs in such areas as utilities and debt service will compound our budget challenge.

The conversation about tuition would not have been possible were it not for several factors worth noting. First, historically, our tuition has been relatively low compared to our peer institutions, so any consideration about increasing it started from a comparatively low base. Second, the federal stimulus program includes increases to the amount of Pell grants and a widely expanded tuition tax credit, both of which make tuition more affordable for low and middle-income families. I do not underestimate the effect of increased tuition on many of our students, but without these elements in play, the conversation to increase tuition would have been much more difficult.

The impacts of the state’s budget cuts will be felt across our University community. A large percentage of our operating expenses involves people and jobs, and taking cuts of this magnitude without affecting jobs would be impossible. There will be a significant number of job losses. This will be hard on everyone, and hardest on those whose jobs are lost due to the budget cuts. We are exploring all available ways to manage this situation. We will do all we can to give as much notice as possible-60 days is our goal-to those whose jobs are lost. These losses mean there will be fewer individuals to provide the education and support services our students require, and we will need to find creative ways to fill the voids left, though we will not be able to do so completely.

Over the past months, there have been extensive discussions across the UW community about how to best handle the state’s budget cut. Based upon what we have heard and the information we have, Provost Wise will be sending budget allocations for the 2009-11 biennium to deans, chancellors, vice provosts and vice presidents later this week, and they will begin the process of implementing them. While no one has been spared, we have tried as best as we can to protect the instructional core of the University by taking much larger cuts in administrative and support units and smaller cuts in academic units. The Board of Regents must approve our budget, and we will be presenting it to them at their May meeting, with final approval to come in June.

Many of you have submitted thoughtful ideas for how the University can save money in our operations. Some of these ideas have already been implemented, and others are still under consideration. Your thoughts and ideas have been very welcome. Later this week, I will be sending you an update on where we stand on cost-saving ideas that have been suggested by members of our UW community.

State budgets are extremely complex with far-reaching implications. Cuts to other state agencies will also affect our University community. For example, health and human service budget reductions will have an impact on UW Medicine. Paul Ramsey will continue to communicate with those in UW Medicine regarding the impact of budget reductions as they become more apparent.

This dramatic reduction in state support signals a fundamental change in our relationship with the state. For the first time in our history, tuition revenue will exceed state support. The funding the state of Washington provides to its public universities has fallen to among the lowest levels in the nation. These realities will force us to change the fundamental financial model by which we operate and to reconsider the manner in which we approach our core mission. We certainly will not allow these cuts to become an excuse for slipping backward by simply reducing our quality or our commitment to academic excellence. On the contrary, as we work our way through this, I am confident that we can find new approaches that will allow the UW to become an even more prominent national and international university.

The next two years will certainly be hard. Many of our colleagues are going to be dislocated at a very difficult time. We will work hard to minimize the impacts on their lives. Also, we will have to work together as colleagues with more collaboration and consideration than ever before. It will be essential that we stay focused on the core values and mission of the University. All in all, this is going to be a challenging task, but I know the UW community is up to it.



Mark A. Emmert

  • Marsha Linehan

    If there are cuts in pay or suspension of salary raises, I believe that full professors (or professors with salaries over a specified amount) should bear the brunt of it on a two year temporary basis. If full professors do not vote to do this, then I believe it would be appropriate to find some way for those who want to make a temporary donation of part or all of a projected raise to a financial pool to help lower paid faculty and staff, particularly those whose hours are to be cut. I believe that some other universities are doing this. (I am, of course, a full professor.)

  • Anna

    UW’s in-state tuition is ridiculously low. I feel like us out-of-state students who pay FOUR TIMES as much are subsidizing the in-state residents. WHY MUST YOU PUNISH US!?! Out-of-state students are almost 20% of the student body. THIS IS NOT FAIR.

  • Marsha Linehan

    Whoops, I did not know my comments would be public!

  • Andrew

    How will the budget cuts impact waitlisted students?

  • Michael Corn

    President Emmert-

    You are probably going to receive a lot of advice, but I hope that you will seriously look at encouraging the sharing of budget cuts, either university-wide or within operating units, through the use of systematic, across-the-board salary reductions in order to save jobs and preserve our programs.

    I would also suggest that whenever possible that these be implemented as temporary reductions in compensation rather than reductions in employment level. Reducing the level of appointment or employment may have the undesired effect of reducing our ability to maintain our programs.

    I think that it is also possible to look at encouraging employees to make restricted-use, tax-deductible contributions to the UW to be used for the limited purpose of preserving jobs.

    In that regard, I would be willing to pledge a gift of 5% of my take-home compensation for at least one year and to double that pledge to 10% if the level of contributions by my fellow-employees for this purpose was, on average, the same 5%.

    While being realistic, I think we also have to make the assumption that this will be temporary and that within a year or two things will improve.

    Michael A. Corn, JD
    Associate Director
    Office of Sponsored Programs
    University of Washington
    4333 Brooklyn Avenue NE, 17th Floor, Room 402
    Box 359472
    Seattle, WA 98105-9472
    (206) 616-2585
    (206) 685-1732 (FAX)

  • Ali, Ibrahim

    President Emmert,

    I was so excited and happy the entire day. The reason? You walked by me and said “hi.” I responded but felt a shock after because I never imagined this happens in this country. I saw you around 9:30am this morning between the HUB and Hall health. You held a piece of paper. I stood and watched you pass by me in awe.

    I wanted to let you know how appreciative I am of your personality and friendliness. This cannot happen in the part of the world I come from. University chancellors are almost always invisible to some faculty let alone a mere student like me. “You were walking like any ordinary person.”

    All I want to say is all the best and May God grant you the wisdom and guidance to run this great institution especially during these turbulent times.

    I am an international student from Ghana, West Africa. Thanks

  • Jim Gaynor


    When I worked for Ohio State University in the 90s, out-of-state students paid over three times what in-state students did. Understand that the state funding President Emmert refers to comes from the taxes of in-state resident – we’re already helping fund every student at UW.

    As for fairness, I suggest you look at the state-supported schools of your home state, and see if their tuition is equal for both in-state and out-of-state students…

  • Eric Donohue

    Dr Emmert:

    You are not being truthful. You say the pain will be distributed across all areas of the UW community. That is just not true. You are not extending the cuts to your administrative areas. Cutting positions that are not occupied is not the same as laying off real people.

    Tomorrow, you will announce massive layoffs. These are real people. They deserve more respect than what you are giving them. You are laying them off tomorrow so the books will start on July 1 in clean order. And you are doing all this without discussing the realities of State funding and the UW budget situation. You have also protected your direct budgets and staff.

    The Legislature is not changing its position without help. You have been pushing for lower funding and higher degree of local authority since you took your current role at the UW. They are now taking the easy way out. I am offended.

    As far as I am concerned, you and your administration is an embarrassment. You have grown your numbers and your pay to record levels and have no intention of backing down.

    I am working to influence two things right now:

    1. adherance to federal pay schedules for public employees;
    2. publicly elected Boards for state universities and colleges.

    I think I might be able to make some progress with these ideas this year. I wonder if you could find a way to support these ideas?

    Good luck with your firings tomorrow.

  • Morgan

    I am also wondering how this will affect the waitlist, as it was said by the Director of Admissions in an article that 1000 people who normally would have gotten in were specifically placed on the waitlist instead due to the budget uncertainty. Now that it has passed and the tuition increases will help level it out, what does it mean for people on the waitlist for fall 2009?

  • Jeff

    Out of state should not pay as much???

    How many tax dollars did you pay to keep UW running if you are from out of state?? Think about it.

  • Anna

    Whoa-I did not say out-of-state should not pay as much. Just not as much as the major difference between the two.
    My home state:

    University of Hawaii
    In-state tuition $6,259
    Out-of-state tuition: $16,915
    I think Washington should take a look at peer institutions’ in-state tuition:

    University of California: $8,062
    University of Colorado: $7,278
    University of Virginia: $9,505
    University of Michigan: $7,376

    Now look at Oregon:
    In-state tuition: $6,435
    Out-of-state tuition: $19,992

    The full cost of instruction is $4,834 and the $2,567 difference is paid by state tax funds and other moneys. (Tuition Bill for UW)

  • Anna

    “The full cost of instruction is $4,834 and the $2,567 difference is paid by state tax funds and other moneys” is per quarter. Mine says $7789.00. How does the “state” help me again? About 20% of the student body does too.

    I’ll pay this as I have been for the last two years…but honestly? Why are residents whining when you already have it good?

  • Kate

    How will this affect the Women’s Center?

  • Dennis Ha

    About time some one agreed upon me…. I am an out of state student as well and while financial aid is increasing very minimally, why is the out of state tuition soaring sky high like daffy duck just pulled the TNT switch. This state has issues, my income is just as low as other low income students and still not getting any support. How the heck is that NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND law is being enforced. How is UW’s statement ” WILL NOT LET STUDENTS FALL BEHIND BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL ISSUES” be judged. THIS SCHOOLS IS AGAINST ITS OWN WORDS and i WISH YOU WOULD TAKE THAT STATEMENT OUT OF YOUR HAND BOOK AND HUSKY PROMISE. This is ridic….