Washington college presidents refuse states' request to specify cuts

Say 15% reductions would be too devastating to consider

Washington State could cut higher education funding by 15% next year unless it collects more revenue, and the state's four-year universities insist the results would be devastating.

A recent ruling by the Washington Supreme Court requires the state to increase funding for K-12 education—and pay for it by drastically reducing funds for other departments. The decision "in budget-math terms, is like another recession," said David Schumacher, the state's Office of Financial Management (OFM) director. Washington's OFM sent a request to university administrators asking what programs they would cut to meet the 15% funding reduction.

The presidents of the state's six four-year universities refused, instead sending a list of the cut's anticipated negative effects that include:

  • A 17% increase in in-state tuition at Washington State University;
  • An 18% reduction in class sections at Western Washington University (WWU);
  • Reduced enrollment at University of Washington (UW) and WWU; and
  • Cutbacks in student services.

Responding to the downturn strategies to counter significant cuts in state funding

"This alone should get people's attention," says Michael Young, president of UW. "Is this the direction we want to head?"

Young says that, to find the savings, he would have to cut funding to STEM programs because they are the most expensive. He cautioned lawmakers that following through on the proposed reductions would "not only completely undo recent progress but would also put our state back on the path of historic state disinvestment in public higher education."

Schumacher said the request was a "practical exercise" to underscore the consequences of lagging revenues (Long, Seattle Times, 9/22).


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