Cut by a Quarter
By Rachel Solomon - The Daily of the University of Washington
April 27, 2009
After months of protests, rallies, debates, discussions, and frantic phone calls and e-mails to state senators and representatives, the Washington state legislative session concluded yesterday, finalizing a state budget that makes significant cuts from the UW and removing a cap on tuition increases.
The state operating budget for the 2009-11 biennium slashes $214 million — 25 percent — from the UW, a slightly milder outcome than the House’s 31 percent proposal made earlier in the year.
The state budget cut accounts for a Washington state revenue shortfall of $9 billion, a deficit also expected to be filled by federal stimulus dollars.
“The cut itself was historic,” said UW spokesperson Norm Arkans. “Virtually a quarter of the money we get from the state, as of July, will be gone. Probably 12 years ago was the time we had that level of funding from the state.”
The effects on the UW, while not entirely lined out, are expected to span across the university.
“So much of our operating costs are relating to people,” Arkans said. “There are going to be job losses and some jobs eliminated, and some things we’re currently doing for students [are] not going to be done in the next biennium.”
The UW has been making cuts since January. The finalized numbers mean plans will move forward to close certain study centers on campus and cut TA positions by as much as 20 percent in the College of Arts & Sciences. Projects such as Restore the Core, which provides for renovation of historic buildings on the Seattle campus, will no longer be funded.
How cuts will be distributed and how many layoffs will take place across campus will be finalized when the Board of Regents approves the university’s budget in June.
The possibility of tuition increasing beyond the 7 percent annual cap was debated heavily in Olympia during the past few weeks.
House Bill 2344 was approved in the Senate Saturday by a vote of 29-20. The bill, introduced by Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton (35th district), grants four-year colleges the authority to boost tuition above the 7 percent cap.
Tuition is scheduled to increase 14 percent each year for resident undergraduates over the next two years before dropping back down to 7 percent.
This means that current freshmen will be paying more than $9,000 in tuition their senior year, nearly doubling tuition to $12,292 by the time current high-school juniors graduate from the UW; that is, if they get accepted — the budget also reduced enrollments by 1,327, on average, annually.
Last-minute attempts to tack amendments onto 2344, including one that would have eliminated yearly compounding of the tuition increase, failed to pass. An amendment to the budget was added Saturday night that would have taken money out of another program and reduced tuition increases back to 7 percent.
“It was defeated on the floor with that amendment,” explained Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla (16th district), who added the amendment.
Hewitt stated that he and others who opposed the bill are displeased by the results.
“We tried to get it back down,” he said. “I just think there are a lot of kids that it’s going to put a hardship on.”
The combination of tuition hikes and federal funding is expected to reduce the net budget cut at the UW from 25 percent to 12 percent.
“For the first time in modern history, we’re going to get more money from our students through tuition and fees than we get from the state general fund,” Arkans said. “And that’s really a fundamental change in the way the university is going to be funded. And in some ways, that’s going to alter the university’s relationship with the state.”
All that remains to wrap up the budget debate in Olympia is Gov. Chris Gregoire’s signature.
“Now the work really begins,” Gregoire wrote in a statement. “We have to take this frugal budget and make it work.”
Reach reporter Rachel Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.