PULLMAN, Wash. The Washington State University Board of Regents, faced with the issues of tuition hikes and budget reductions, heard from students and university officials during the board’s meeting today (Jan. 25).

Karl Boehmke, executive director of Planning and Budgeting, said that Gov. Gary Locke’s budget proposes in the fiscal year 2003 a cut to the university’s state operating budget of 5 percent or $10.5 million. The governor’s budget grants tuition-setting authority to the regents. There is an assumption in the governor’s budget that there might be up to an 18 percent tuition increase to offset the budget cut.

“The university also needs to come up with a way to pay for faculty and staff salary increases that the state authorized, but failed to fully fund,” Boehmke told the regents. “Even if we had a substantial increase in tuition, the university would have a budget shortfall. Departments are currently considering the possibility of 2 percent cuts.”

However, the governor has proposed an increase in funding of the State Need Grant program for low-income students to cover the cost of tuition increases.

Jesse Keene, president of the Associated Students of WSU, stressed the effect of major tuition increases on students. He said he will work closely with administration on the issue.

Regent William Marler said the possibility of a substantial tuition hike is a tax. “We benefit so much from higher education and should not put the burden on parents and students.

“We are not benefiting our society by taxing our students. I have a fundamental opposition to this. A tax increase should be spread across the population,” Marler said.

Regent Rafael Stone expressed concern about faculty compensation. “It needs to be a priority and should be a higher percentage than the governor’s proposed 2.6 percent.”

In other business, the regents adopted the university’s strategic plan to provide the best possible undergraduate experience and nurturing an environment of world class research, scholarship and the arts. “The plan reaffirms what this institution stands for,” WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said.

WSU newest building was named by the Board of Regents for WSU President Emeritus Samuel H. Smith.
The Samuel H. Smith Center for Undergraduate Education opened in January and will be dedicated in May. The 94,000-plus-square-foot facility includes 20 classrooms complete with Internet access at every seat that can accommodate 1,269 students.

The regents also selected nationally-known sociologist James E. Blackwell to receive Washington State University’s highest honor, the Regents Distinguished Alumnus Award. The announcement was made today (Jan. 25) at the Board of Regents meeting.

Blackwell was among WSU’s first black graduate students in sociology to earn a doctorate, completing his degree in 1959. The New Orleans resident plans to return to WSU April 15 to accept the award.

The regents met in the new Honors Hall which has undergone a $15.3 million renovation. It has 57,000-square feet on five levels of housing, 117 suite-style student residences, a computer lab, recreation room, Honors College offices, classrooms, lounge and library.

Mary Wack, dean of the Honors College, described the facility as the university’s first living and learning center that worked with WSU’s mission to offer the best undergraduate experience.