PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University President Sam Smith praised Gov. Gary Locke’s new higher education budget plan for expanding college access for the state’s citizens while also emphasizing recruiting and retaining quality faculty.
“Gov. Locke has set a course for public higher education in our state that will meet the demands of the 21st century for a well-educated, technologically skilled workforce,” Smith said.
“The governor recognizes that more and more citizens will be knocking on the doors of our universities and colleges,” Smith said. “But he also recognizes that we need excellent faculty to teach and mentor those students.”
Gov. Locke unveiled his 1999-2001 higher education budget plan in Seattle and Walla Walla Tuesday. It recommends investing $136.3 million in new state funding for higher education operating budgets, not including salaries, and protects the state’s universities and colleges from budget cuts.
The budget plan draws significantly on the recommendations released last month by his 2020 Commission on the Future of Postsecondary Education. Highlights include:
— new Washington Promise Scholarships of $3,000 per year, to be awarded to some 7,000 of the state’s top high school graduates, for use at public or private universities and colleges in Washington.
— $62 million for some 10,000 new enrollments for universities and colleges, with 1,700 of those for high-demand areas of study. The plan also includes $174 million in capital construction funds for the five branch campuses of Washington State University and the University of Washington.
— $13 million for additional connections to the K-20 network statewide and a new Online College for Lifelong Learning, both to expand college access through the use of technology.
— $4 million to help recruit and retain top faculty, with matching funds coming from tuition increases. The funds are expected to address the widening gap between Washington salaries and those at peer institutions.
— $13 million for expanded workforce training, especially for high demand areas such as information technology.
— creation of a new Commission on Student Learning, with representatives from each institution, to set clear standards of accountability and student achievement.
The remainder of the governor’s budget proposals, including salary increases for state employees, is expected later this month.