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Budget cuts could mean fewer spots for Washington students, faculty at state universities

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
University of Washington's president says fewer in-state students will be accepted if lawmakers cut higher education budgets further than the governor's 2011-2013 budget proposal.

More than 3,100 Washington students might not get into the state’s largest universities in the next couple of years. Hundreds of faculty and staff could lose their jobs. That’s what university presidents say will happen if the legislature slashes higher education funding beyond what the governor has already proposed.

Lawmakers asked the presidents to consider the impacts of $180 million in additional cuts in case next month’s revenue projections are lower than expected, as some legislators fear. Governor Gregoire proposed cutting support to the universities by $600 million in her 2011-2013 biennial budget.

Phyllis Wise, interim president of the Univerity of Washington, said in a letter (posted in an article by Chris Grygiel of the, that the institution is at a "critical point" and the most extreme state funding reductions would jeopardize its contributions to the state:

"Times are tough, but please know—without state funding and strategic solutions-everything is at risk. The opportunities. The economic impact. The future of our state."

For context, Wise said the cuts would be equivalent to eliminating the core education budgets (state and tuition funding) for one of the following:

  • the UW College of Arts & Sciences, which generates over 50% of degrees at the UW, orThe Business School, Law School, School of Dentistry, and College of Engineering
  • the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy
  • both UW campuses in Bothell and Tacoma, plus an additional $45 to $100 million of programs at the Seattle campus

Bruce Shepard, Western Washington University’s president, also wrote a letter that's posted on The Seattle Times website in an article by Katherine Long, that says WWU has "exhausted the ability to make deeper cuts without affecting quality":

He said if the budget is cut futher, it would have "serious consequences for Western students, including:

  • forcing the university to replace a total of 2,037 and 2,627 resident undergraduates with out of state students
  • increasing the average time to degree attainment from 4.6 years to 6.9 years.
  • reducing enrollments in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program to prepare science and math teachers. 

Shepard said it will take decades to restore and repair the damage done to quality and access. 

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.