Best Case Scenarios for the UW in the 2015 – 17 Compromise Budget
Budget negotiations between the House and Senate have begun in earnest after both chambers passed their operating and capital budgets. The two proposals generously funded a portion of the UW’s higher education priorities, but neither provided comprehensive funding.
While the House funded more high-priority operating requests, the Senate showed more generosity for in-demand capital needs. The analysis below lists the best-case scenario for a compromise budget between the two proposals.
Neither budget proposed to increase tuition in the next biennium, which would provide students and families with a continued respite from the annual tuition hikes endured just a few years ago.
- House budget proposes to freeze tuition for the second straight biennium.
- Senate budget proposes to cut tuition by nearly 25%, but comes about $4 million shy of paying for the proposed tuition cut over the 2015-17 biennium.
UW Impact is paying close attention to the impacts of a tuition reduction on GET, which is of critical interest to current and future UW students and families. Both budgets are favorable, but that assumes the compromise budget provides enough funding to backfill either a freeze or a cut.
Financial aid is the only way that many of Washington’s underrepresented and low-income students can achieve a college degree. Robust financial aid funding is a worthy state investment.
- $53 million in additional State Need Grant (SNG) funding to help address the 33,000 unserved students.
- $60 million in matching funds for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.
- Reduces SNG funding by $75 million due to its proposal to lower tuition, and cuts an additional $17 million.
- Adds $22 million for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.
While the Senate’s bold approach to reducing tuition should be applauded, the backfill must be fully funded and an investment in the SNG should be a priority. The House budget is more favorable.
Investing in Quality: Compensation
The UW is the 3rd largest non-federal employer in Washington, a powerful economic driver for the state responsible for $12.5 billion in economic impact each year. Yet faculty and staff compensation falls below peer institutions, which poses a large risk for attracting and retaining quality personnel.
- House provided modest percentage increases that honor collective bargaining agreements.
- Senate doesn’t honor collective bargaining agreements, but does fund a $1000 raise per employee. The UW would be being responsible for funding any raises in excess of $1000.
The House budget is more favorable.
Medical Education in Spokane
Washington needs more doctors, and this crisis is worst in rural and under served areas. The UW School of Medicine has provided top-notch medical education in Spokane for 40 years, and is poised to expand its med school to meet today’s demand.
- $4.7 million for the UW to maintain the Spokane medical school.
- $3 million to create additional Washington medical residencies.
- $3.8 million towards the health care loan repayment program aimed at encouraging doctors to practice primary care and mental health in rural and underserved areas.
- Just $1.25 million in annual funding for the UW’s medical school in Spokane, and requires WSU to reinstate some of the services it provided prior to having ended its partnership in WWAMI.
- $3.8 million for the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program.
The Senates appropriation would jeopardize current and future UW medical students in Spokane, potentially forcing the UW to reduce class size or transfer students off the Spokane campus. The House budget is more favorable.
Other Operating Considerations
The Senate budget eliminates $15.6 million in Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) appropriations, which currently funds 18 cutting-edge UW research projects in areas such as cancer, diabetes and stroke. UW Impact alumni advocacy helped save this critical source of UW research dollars in 2014, and will work towards the same aim in the 2015-17 budget.
In general, the Senate proposal was more generous to the UW’s capital requests than was the House.
Computer Science and Engineering Expansion
Demand for computer science far exceeds capacity. The UW requested $40 million for the state’s part in construction of a new building.
- House funds just $6 million.
- Senate allocates $32.5 million.
Over 60% of this building’s funding will be secured via private support, and now the state should do its part. The Senate Budget is more favorable.
UW Tacoma Urban Solutions Center
UW Tacoma requested $18 million to build additional learning space for its growing student body in areas of engineering, GIS, environmental sciences and big data.
- House budget provides no funding for this project.
- Senate budget provides $16 million.
The state has already invested in the building’s initial design, and additional state funds will be supplemented with local funds. Senate Budget is more favorable.
UW Bothell Phase 4 Academic STEM
UW Bothell requested $500,000 to fund predesign of a new facility for 1,200 STEM students in fields such as civil engineering, robotics, manufacturing and materials science.
- House budget provides $500,000.
- Senate budget provides zero.
House budget is more favorable.
Life Sciences Building
Biology is the UW’s fastest growing major. The UW requested $40 million of the total $160 million price tag to add much-needed classroom and flexible learning labs for this important STEM degree. Neither proposal funded the project, which is disappointing. Neither budget is favorable.
Other Capital Budget Notes
The UW School of Nursing Simulation Learning Lab and two capital requests in Health Sciences were also amply funded in both proposals. In addition, both chambers allocated support for the much-needed Burke Museum renovation. While the Burke renovations are not a UW capital request (since the Burke is the state’s natural history museum), we are excited to see support for this beloved institution on UW’s campus. The house proposed to fund $26 million and the Senate proposed to fund the entire $46 million request. The Senate budget is more favorable.
The state’s transportation budget isn’t generally related to higher education, but one proposal could save millions for the UW: The House proposal to fund $16 million for Phase II of the Burke-Gilman trail improvement project.
The UW owns nearly two miles of the popular trail, which is in poor repair. Trail traffic is expected to significantly grow over the next 20 years due to light rail; additional residential construction; and expansions of U Village and the Children’s Hospital. The $16 million capital investment saves the UW from having to build-out and maintain their section of the most heavily used trail in Washington. The House budget is more favorable.
Both chambers deserve credit for demonstrating a clear commitment to public higher education and the UW’s legislative agenda and budget requests. Neither proposal, however, fully addresses all of the University’s needs. As budget negotiations continue, we will call upon our alumni to pressure their legislators in favor of the best possible outcomes for the UW and higher education.