Office of the President

September 23, 2018

UW alumni are vital to ensuring reinvestment in Washington public higher ed

Ana Mari Cauce

Last week, I had the pleasure of discussing the value of higher education with many past and present leaders of our UW Alumni Association — a dynamic organization with a 129-year history of supporting the UW and advancing higher education in the state of Washington. It was an evening of provocative questions and thoughtful, in-depth conversation. I’m so grateful to everyone who attended. I especially want to thank past UWAA Presidents Eddie Pasatiempo and Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, founders of the UWAA’s groundbreaking alumni legislative advocacy program, UW Impact. They posed important questions that surfaced how the UW is creating access for students from every part of Washington, as well as how we work to ensure that students graduate from the UW with the credentials and skills they need to thrive in our state’s booming economy. As I say time and again, we really are the University for Washington.

With past UWAA presidents Eddie Pasatiempo and Colleen Fukui-Sketchley

With past UWAA presidents Eddie Pasatiempo and Colleen Fukui-Sketchley

We are, however, at a pivotal moment for the future of our University. The next session of the state legislature in January will be a crucial one for the UW and all of public higher education. Higher education is far and away the most effective investment our state can make in both an individual’s ability to prosper and our state’s economic future. Public universities are like the goose that lays the golden egg: An educated populace is healthier and more engaged in their communities and civic life. People with more education require fewer state tax-supported services and produce more of everything that enables states to thrive. And yes, more educated people create more tax revenue.

Universities like the UW also create and fill jobs. That’s especially true here in Washington, which is one of the top ten states that produce jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, but in the bottom ten states that produce bachelor’s degree holders. By adequately funding public higher education, we ensure our most promising students become our most productive Washington residents, no matter which part of the state they grew up in or how wealthy their family is.

A great discussion with past and present leadership of the UWAA

A great discussion with past and present leadership of the UWAA

Decades of disinvestment in Washington’s colleges, coupled with an extraordinary rise in the cost of living across the Northwest, is constraining our ability to compete, retain and adequately compensate talented faculty and staff and to fund the various programs and services that students rely on. A hallmark of our university is our decades-long commitment to both access and excellence. More than a third of our students are the first in their family to pursue college and nearly 10,000 students on our three campuses are recipients of the Husky Promise. If the UW is to continue to both serve the people of Washington, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances, and achieve the level of excellence they deserve, we must come together to spark a reinvestment in the UW and our fellow public colleges and universities.

Our alumni community, more than 400,000 strong, is indispensable in our efforts to ensure that our state makes urgently-needed investments in the future of Washington’s students and economy. Our alumni leaders, in particular, understand the power of education to change lives and are dedicated to expanding that opportunity for others. They embody the impact we have in communities across our state and around the world.

I was deeply gratified by how strongly our past and current UWAA leaders spoke about the value of their UW education in their lives and of their commitment to ensuring that our public mission remains true to its promise. These leaders represent six decades of volunteer service — a compelling reminder of the role and value of alumni advocacy and leadership within our UW community. I look forward to continuing to work together as we seek to catalyze a recommitment to public higher education in Washington. Now is the time to act, before we start to seriously erode this precious resource that generations of taxpayers – and Huskies, including UWAA members – have helped to build.