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Eye On Olympia

Eastern Washington University budget cuts….

On the heels of a very similar post I wrote yesterday re: Washington State University’s budget cuts, here’s a closer look at the legislature’s proposals for Eastern Washington University.

The short form: It’s not as bad as it sounds.

“We are looking at an 18.5 to 22 percent reduction in funding,” EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo told the Spokesman-Review’s Kevin Graman yesterday.

Arevalo’s right, in terms of the state’s proposed contribution to the university’s budget. But fortunately for Eastern staffers and students, that’s not the whole picture.

Eastern’s current two-year budget is about $239 million. The state estimates that keeping the same programs, payroll, services etc. for the next two years would cost about $249 million. Salaries tend to rise, as do health care costs. Stuff costs more.

Eastern gets about half its money from the state treasury. And it’s true that lawmakers want to dramatically shrink their contribution to colleges during the current budget crisis. If this was a normal year, the state would pay $124 million to maintain current programs at Eastern. Instead, the Senate is proposing shaving $28 million from that.

Yikes.

And lawmakers are also assuming some pretty dramatic savings at Eastern: an 11 percent cut in administration, a 12 percent cut in non-instructional costs like libraries, groundskeeping, etc. (Those two cuts total about $10 million.)

But here’s some better news, at least for staffers: state budget writers say that a 7 percent tuition increase over the next two years would add nearly $9 million more to the college’s budget. For students, this works out to $306 a year more.

A little more good news: the federal government is expected to send Eastern another nearly $6 million in stimulus dollars.

Net result: Even after the Senate’s 18.5 percent cut in state support, Eastern’s total budget would be $235 million, instead of the $249 million maintenance-level budget.

To look at it another way, the budget for the next two years would be $4 million — or 1.6 percent — less than the last budget was.

As for students: yeah, 7 percent to 10 percent is a pretty big tuition hike. Some college officials argue that the boost would be offset by increases — particularly at the federal level — in financial aid, as well as federal tax breaks. Here’s a chart compiled by the University of Washington’s budget folks which maintains that for students from families with an income of $160,000 or less wouldn’t pay anything more even under a 14 percent tuition hike at UW (which means $875 more a year).

If you want to run the Eastern budget numbers yourself, here’s the Senate plan (see page 179). And here’s the House version (see page 186), which takes a deeper bite but would boost tuition 10 percent to offset it, with a virtually identical net result.

 


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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