UW Impact

2015 Legislative Recap

The 2015 Washington state legislative session wrapped up as a historic victory for public higher education and the UW — thanks in part to the efforts of UWAA members and advocates around the state.

Washington is the only state in the country that will actually lower four-year college tuition costs. The list of this year’s policy achievements demonstrates that legislators are hearing our messages. THANK YOU to the alums, advocates, UWAA members and friends of the UW whose advocacy made this a reality.

UWAA member dues support UW Impact, which is the UWAA’s legislative advocacy program. Since 2010, UWAA members and alumni from around the state have joined together to stand up for the UW and public higher education. This year, we sent thousands of messages to our lawmakers.

This year, higher education wasn’t sacrificed despite the significant budget challenges faced by lawmakers. While not perfect, this budget sends a clear signal that our state will prioritize and invest in the UW and public higher education. Here’s a recap of what transpired, and what we have left to work on:

Big Wins

  • Tuition: Resident undergraduate UW students and families will save a little over $2,000 in the 2015-17 school years thanks to the tuition cut that will be implemented over the biennium.
  • UW Medicine in Spokane: State lawmakers invested $9 million to increase the number of UW Medicine students in Spokane, and they provided $4 million a year to fund additional medical residencies in Washington State. This investment will greatly improve Washington’s ability to meet rural health care needs across our state.
  • UW Tacoma Urban Solutions Center: The Legislature provided $16 million to renovate a 40,000 square foot building for a vast expansion of STEM degree offerings at UWT.
  • Burke-Gilman Trail: The popular corridor on UW’s campus will see $16 million in much-needed repairs and upgrades, which will provide UW students with a safer bike/pedestrian pathway. State investment means the UW can spend its dollars on instruction-related costs, rather than infrastructure.

While much was accomplished this year, we are already looking to next year’s legislative goals. Investing in financial aid and expanding access to in-demand fields are two areas where state funding levels need to improve.

The tuition cut will provide some financial relief for all of Washington’s students, but it doesn’t satisfy the full need for Washington’s lowest-income students and families. Around 30,000 Washington students who qualify for the state’s financial aid program will continue to go unserved due to budget shortfalls.

Computer science is another area where state investment was helpful, but more is still needed. Legislators were able to come up with less than half of the costs of a badly-needed UW Computer Science building. With private commitments for matching dollars and demonstrated need from the industry, full funding would have been a smart state investment.

Support for the UW and public higher education in Washington has come a long way since the steep cuts received during the recession. We look forward to working with our UWAA members, alums and advocates in the years ahead to ensure that the UW’s legacy will remain strong for many years to come.