Legislature Advances Conference Budget

This afternoon the Washington Legislature released a final conference supplemental operating budget.

The final supplemental operating budget would boost the state’s $33.6 billion dollar budget by approximately $155.1 million. Of the $155.1 million over half  ($89.2 million) is associated with changes to maintenance level caseloads and adjustments based on current law requirements. This includes $12 million for higher than anticipated College Bound enrollments. The remainder ($65.9 million) is focused on net policy enhancements and increases including $5 million for the State Need Grant due to the passage of the Real Hope Act and approximately $25 million for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Higher Education

The supplemental budget proposed by the Legislature supports the investment made in higher education in the 2013-15 biennial budget.

The budget makes a handful of investments in higher education including $5 million for the State Need Grant which was expanded under the Real Hope Act, $25 million to expand Opportunity Scholarships available and match the additional private contributions received, restores State Need Grants for students attending for-profit institutions and indicates intent in the next biennium to reconsider grant awards for students at private four-year institutions.

In addition the budget includes language for  the Washington State Auditor to conduct an audit of the use of dedicated local and operating fee accounts by Washington’s public higher education institutions and the Education Research and Data Center to collect and publish short-term and long-term earnings and employment data for completers of higher education degrees.

The budget also reduces funds for higher education institutions as part of the savings attained through LEAN management strategies. The biennial budget passed last summer required all state agencies, including higher education institutions, to attain LEAN management savings of $30 million. Higher education’s portion of this reduction was approximately $2.1 million. Evergreen’s portion of this reduction was $72,000 in FY15. The conference budget advanced today increases this savings required of agencies to $40 million.

The budget also extends the tuition freeze for the first half of the biennium to the second year of the biennium.

Finally the budget provides for a series of investments to institutions including $2 million to expand enrollments in computer science and engineering for Central Washington and Eastern Washington Universities, $1 million for the University of Washington’s Institute of Protein Design, $410,000 for the MESA community college program, $350,000 for a pilot project to embed the year up model within community college campuses, and $750,000 for Washington State University to pursue Jet Fuels research.

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