September 11, 2004 in City

Universities unite in request for funding

By The Spokesman-Review
 

SEATTLE – Washington’s two top dogs in higher education are banding together to garner more state money for students and programs.

The idea came from the presidents of Washington State University and the University of Washington, who have met several times since President Mark Emmert moved into his UW office this summer.

“It’s a revolutionary approach we’re using for the budget,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins, urging the school’s Board of Regents to support the idea at their meeting here Friday morning.

The two schools, which have traditionally competed for state funding, are now presenting a unified front, submitting nearly identical documents in their budget requests. Together, they comprise about a half-billion dollars of the annual state budget and educate about 55,000 students

“It’s the same language, the same arguments, but the numbers are different,” said Karl Boehmke, WSU’s executive director for finance and budget.

This year, citing a need to protect its standing as a top research university and provide students with a quality education, WSU is requesting a $16.9 million increase in core funding. Next year, that increase would be $33.9 million. The request would step up the per-student funding to bring it closer to funding at WSU “peer schools,” such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California at Davis and Michigan State University.

The University of Washington’s requested core increase would be $25 million the first year and $50 million the second.

Both schools argue that the new money would allow them to take on more students to meet the rising number of applications, provide a greater number of faculty, increase the salaries of the educators currently on campuses and provide several joint efforts to enhance research and business in the state.

Together, the schools are also asking for about $20 million to promote, research and potentially spin off businesses. WSU’s share, which the school would use primarily to attract new faculty and equip laboratories, amounts to $7.1 million.

This investment in education would fuel the economy, keep students and graduates in state, and bring UW and WSU up to par with their competition, said Boehmke.

WSU’s regents approved the idea unanimously Friday. Now their counterparts at the UW will vote on the same issues at a meeting next week.

“We’re recognizing the fact that Washington has two great research universities. But they’re losing ground to their competitors,” said Randy Hodgins, UW’s director of state relations. Not only do the schools compete with schools in other states for top students, they’re also competing for faculty and public and private research funding, he said.

The schools’ joint effort is unusual because, historically, neither one has gone out of its way to coordinate efforts with the other school, he said. By partnering in the state budget requests, the schools hope to add impact to their point that the state is losing ground in its support of teaching and research, he said.

“This isn’t WSU and UW trying to take all the money for themselves, though” he said, adding that the administrations hope this move will draw attention to the greater need to fund all education statewide.


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