SEATTLE — As the competition for state dollars intensifies with the current state economic downturn, higher education in Washington state faces an uphill battle, said the presidents of the state’s two largest public universities.

“There is tremendous pressure on the state budget,” said Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins. “We are not in a position to take more budget hits on higher education without seriously jeopardizing quality at our two state research universities.”

At a joint pre-Apple Cup news conference today (Nov. 15), both Rawlins and University of Washington President Richard McCormick underscored the importance of continued public funding for higher education.

“We have no excess capacity at our universities,” McCormick said. “Continued state funding of higher education is critical for the future of our workforce. However, public funding alone is not adequate to cover the University of Washington’s budget.”

One-third of Washington State University’s budget comes from state funding, said Rawlins, but state support for higher education has been in steady decline in the past decade.

The research for Washington’s $700 million wine industry, which is featured in the premiere issue of WSU’s new magazine, Washington State Magazine, originated at Washington State University, he said.

“The state of Washington is fortunate to have two nationally ranked public research universities at Washington State University and the University of Washington, but the economic downturn hits us all as we are seeing declining state resources in all areas.”