This afternoon the public, baccaluareate institutions presented and testified on the future impacts of the operating budget and the capital budget.
The four-year institutions were represented by the University of Washington and Evergreen before the House Capital Budget Committee. Representing both the research and comprehensive institutions, the UW and John Hurley, VP for Finance & Administration at Evergreen, provided a joint presentation on the 10-year outlook for capital projects and funding at the six institutions.
The comprehensive institutions (EWU, WWU, CWU, and Evergreen) highlighted two major priorities over the next decade: (1) instructional needs will dominate capital projects and (2) the majority of minor works dollars from the state will focus on preservation and maintenance.
In addition the comprehensives spoke to the challenges reductions in state funds for capital and the downturn in the economy have had on institutional capital budgets. Among the challenges is the difficulty of modernizing instructional and lab space, reduced staff, and the need to move projects from the current biennium out to future biennia.
Finally the comprehensives highlighted the critical economic impact capital funding has on state and local economies, especially job creation and revenue.
The four-year public higher education institutions testified with concerns regarding the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget for higher education before the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee.
The Governor’s proposed supplemental budget would reduce funding for Washington’s public baccalaureate institutions by double-digit percentages and suspend state work study.
Higher education representatives from the six public baccaluareate institutions in Washington, including The Evergreen State College, testified with concerns about further reductions to higher education and the impact on students.
Since 2008 state funding for Evergreen has declined by half. To mitigate this dramatic loss of state funding over the last four years Evergreen has increased tuition by 70%, reduced institutional support (a.k.a. administration) by 32.3%, reduced the College’s workforce by over 8%, and suspended the Master of Education program and consolidate other programs among several other reductions and regorganizations.
Evergreen testified that further reductions would immediately impact students at the College. Over 80% of Evergreen’s students receive some form of financial aid, over 40% are low-income (at or below 150% of the federal poverty level), over 50% are community and technical college transfers, and nearly 30% are first-generation.
Evergreen also expressed concerns about the impact of further reductions on the success of the College. Evergreen leads the public baccaluareate institutions in Washington in time to degree and is only behind the UW in four-year graduation rates.
Evergreen asked legislators in the coming months of budget discussions to: (1) Prioritize higher education in the budget, (2) Pursue a balanced approach to the budget, and (3) Remember that only six months ago the Legislature overhauled much of higher education, leaving little untouched with regard to policy changes and asked legislators to let these policy changes settle out and if new policy is considered to make sure it does not create new barriers to maximizing the success of students.