May 10, 2012
Achieving Budget Stabilization
Dear Members of the University of Washington Community:
Over the years, particularly since I began doing administrative work as a chair, dean and now provost, I’ve found that budget issues are always a topic of focus and concern. But in these last few years of budgetary free-fall, it’s been all budget, all the time. Just as we were working our way through how to deal with a 50 percent cut in our state appropriation, a mid-biennium special session, then another, threatened to pull us into an even deeper budgetary hole. It was the session that seemed like it would never end, and after so much fear and uncertainty, many of us were caught up in celebrating the fact that we didn’t suffer further major cuts to our budget.
After years of nothing but terrible budget news from Olympia, we have reason to feel good. I know from my own conversations with legislators and the governor that their actions reflected a recognition of the critical importance of higher education for the state. We’re grateful for their collaborative bi-partisan approach to higher education. We are also very grateful to student, faculty, and community leaders and to our alumni for making the case for higher education and the UW. The best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging, and in this session the digging stopped.
While the budget work of the legislature is over, our work continues as we try to stabilize the University’s budget. Although the 2012 Legislative session resulted, thankfully, in no further major cuts to our budget, we need to remember that our biennial budget, adopted by the 2011 Legislature, cut $217 million dollars and was predicated on replacing some of that money with two 16 percent tuition increases, one in 2011–12 and the second in 2012–13. On top of budget cuts, we also have fixed cost increases—like energy—to cover, as well as some mandated expenditures from the Legislature. This will require some reallocation of existing resources within the University.
We have made great strides these past few years in becoming a leaner, more efficiently operated institution. I promise that we will continue to look closely at administrative expenditures and find ways to economize and reduce costs even further. But we cannot stabilize our budget and maintain quality in our academic and research missions on efficiencies alone.
At their meeting last week, President Young and I presented the Regents with a 2012–13 budget proposal. The proposal included scenarios for tuition increases ranging from 14 to 18 percent—in line with legislatively authorized levels. The Regents will adopt a budget and tuition levels for next year at the June meeting. I’ll continue to engage with and seek input from students, faculty, and staff on budget decisions in advance of a final decision in June. You can find more information about the budget and tuition, including the proposed FY13 budget, tuition FAQs, and information from schools, colleges and administrative units on the Office of Planning and Budgeting website.
Spring is a glorious time of year in the Pacific Northwest and a time of renewal. Those of you who saw the cherry trees in full bloom on the Seattle campus know some of the joy of the season. It’s tempting just to invoke those themes, rather than giving you the more sobering news that comes with this note. But I’ve learned throughout my career that ignoring problems never works—and asking others to help you work through problems is the surest path ahead. So I ask for your help, as we work to achieve budget stabilization. We have been through some tough times and we are still feeling their effects. I am confident, though, that better times are ahead.
Ana Mari Cauce
Provost and Executive Vice President