As anticipated, the budget cuts released by the governor today have grave implications for the state of Washington and its citizens. The “Great Recession” continues to erode state revenues, and the consequences are being felt in every corner of the state. At a time when the need for a more educated citizenry is the best way to help the state recover economically, further reductions in higher education are being proposed.
Over the past three years, state funding for the University of Washington has been cut in half. Despite 20% reductions in administrative budgets, over $30 million saved through greater efficiencies, and nearly 1,000 job losses, the UW has had to increase tuition steeply and limit access to the University in order to balance its budget. These choices are not sustainable.
The potential 20% budget reduction outlined today by Governor Gregoire would represent an additional $82 million cut in state support to the University of Washington— a loss of two thirds of our public funding in the past three years. After the cuts we’ve already experienced, adding these would impact our ability to keep the doors open for the citizens of Washington.
Possible elimination of the State Need Grant program threatens the continuation of our “Husky Promise” program that allows our lowest income students to pay no tuition to attend the University of Washington. Without this program, these students will lose the opportunity to get their college degree.
We are also seriously concerned about the governor’s proposed cuts in health services for our most vulnerable citizens. UW Medicine currently provides nearly a third of the charity care in Washington State. Proposed elimination of the Basic Health Plan and Disability Lifeline and proposed cuts to grants for hospitals that provide a significant amount of charity care will impose an untenable financial burden on our entire UW health system.
As Governor Gregoire has said – these cuts are not just numbers, they are people, jobs, and lost opportunities. I call on the Governor, the state legislature, and the citizens of Washington to consider a balanced approach—reforms, innovation, and revenue—to solve our state’s financial challenges.
For the past 150 years, the citizens of this state have built the University of Washington into a world renowned educational institution, a top-tier medical system, and an economic powerhouse. This is your university, and we need your support.