Historic Legislative Session Comes to an End

The 2015 legislative session is wrapping up as a historic victory for public higher education and the UW — thanks in part to the efforts of our advocates around the state. Washington is the only state in the country that will actually lower four-year college tuition costs.

We are proud of the long list of policy achievements we were able to accomplish together. While not perfect, this budget sends a clear signal that our state will prioritize and invest in 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.

Missed Opportunities:

  • Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF): We are disappointed to see our region lose a source of critical life sciences and biotech research funding. Our advocates have worked hard to save this source of UW funding in the past, but unfortunately, lawmakers have stripped the LSDF of its future funding. This represents a real loss for Washington’s burgeoning biotech research industry and economy.
  • Financial Aid: While we applaud the tuition cut all Washington students will enjoy, we lament the Legislature’s inability to invest in financial aid for our state’s neediest students. Thousands of students who qualify for the State Need Grant will continue to go unserved.
  • Computer Science: While the UW will get an additional $6 million to increase Computer Science degrees, the state funded less than half of the costs of a badly-needed new Computer Science building. With private commitments for matching dollars and demonstrated need from the industry, full funding would have been a smart state investment.
  • Too Little Information, Too Late: This legislative session presented challenges for effective advocacy. Advocates had less opportunity to weigh in on the final budget compromise since so much of the negotiation occurred late in the session, late into the evenings, and with little public information until just before the deadline.

Overall, UW Impact applauds the legislative outcome and urges alumni to send a note of thanks to their legislators for prioritizing higher education. And THANK YOU to the alums, advocates, UWAA members and friends of the UW whose advocacy made this a reality. We have come a long way since 2009, and we look forward to your help building the UW’s legacy for many years to come.

Alumni Day of Action capitol pic