Office of the President

April 18, 2019

A great public resource requires real public investment

Ana Mari Cauce

The University of Washington is driven by our public promise – to educate the students who will fill and create the jobs of the future, produce graduates who are informed and engaged citizens and community members, provide health care that the people of Washington rely on, and continue to be the engine of discovery and innovation that has served our state for more than a century and a half.

The fulfillment of that public mission requires public investment, and it requires a commitment by our state’s lawmakers to maintaining the excellence of the UW for the benefit of our students, patients and communities. Now, as the Washington state House and Senate near a compromise budget for the coming biennium, I again urge them to consider how the UW is critical to the health and prosperity of people across our state.

If we are to continue to meet our public obligations, the Washington Legislature must increase foundational support for the University. We applaud the Legislature’s policies in recent budget cycles that have kept in state tuition affordable, but that commitment must go hand in hand with state budget support to cover our ever growing operating costs.

First and foremost, we must retain our ability to hire and retain the talented faculty and staff who educate and serve our students, and who do so in the most expensive region of our state. After taking significant steps over the last decade to improve efficiencies and eliminate waste, we have reached the limit of what we can cut without jeopardizing our educational mission. At current funding levels, we lack even the ability to provide basic cost of living increases to our employees, and so we risk losing the people who make our University an excellent place to learn and receive health care.

Our health care facilities and professionals, in particular, require additional public support as they provide a vital public service. The UW serves as the state’s largest public provider of world class health care, regardless of our patients’ ability to pay. We are proud to serve as this critical safety net, but to maintain the level of care Washingtonians deserve, we urge the legislature to provide additional support for both Harborview and UW Medical Center, as well as our dental clinics. This funding is essential to maintaining the charity care and teaching activities at our hospitals, including essential behavioral health services.

I recognize how challenging it is to craft a budget that balances our state’s many competing priorities while being constrained by finite resources. And I’m grateful to our legislators who I know care deeply about supporting our students, who represent the future of our state. An increase in support for the UW and our hospitals is the most effective strategy for meeting our state’s long term needs – in health care, workforce preparedness and economic development. I urge the Washington Legislature to take the long view in the investments they make in educating and caring for the people of our state. With their help, the University of Washington can continue to be the University FOR Washington.