PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University’s Board of Regents approved the 2003-05 biennial operation and capital budget priorities at its meeting Friday, June 14, on the WSU Vancouver campus.

The board members stressed that their highest priority is to establish a long-term method of funding public higher education at predictable and adequate levels. Short-term imperatives, however, focus on sustaining current operating budget funding for 2003-2005.

For instance, the elimination of the scheduled salary increase in 2002 will make Washington institutions vulnerable to losing key personnel to other state higher education institutions. Therefore, WSU will join other higher education institutions in a request to the Legislature for an increase in faculty and staff salaries to competitive levels. The university also will ask to secure funds for a retention and recruitment pool to prevent loss of key faculty and staff.

WSU, too, will ask for full funding of the existing enrollment at each campus. Currently, enrollment exceeds funding levels, and student demand exceeds the university’s ability to provide instruction at each of the four campuses and in the distance degree program.

The university will request a restoration of recent budget reductions and improvement of program quality by funding more faculty, staff and operations from lawmakers. With additional resources, the university could expand access and build program quality.

The board members set institutional priorities that include the restructuring of the veterinary medicine program and a biotechnology research effort.

The state of Oregon will withdraw its funding and students from the joint Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. While this provides WSU the opportunity to enroll more Washington residents, it requires replacement funding to enable the school to offer the full program.

Discoveries in biotechnology are poised to drive economic development and quality of life improvements for the next decades. With an increased effort in biotechnology research, WSU could play a major role in discovering and disseminating the new knowledge to benefit Washington residents.

The regents also reviewed and approved the Pullman campus $118.6 million capital budget request draft for the next biennium. The projects include construction of the Johnson Hall addition, Cleveland Hall addition, and a biotechnology/life sciences facility. Additional projects include a renovation of Holland Library, a facilities services center in the library and a public safety building. Also approved were campus infrastructure work, capital improvement projects and a wastewater reclamation project.

The board approved the schematic design and granted authorization to proceed with construction plans for the Johnson Hall addition and the WSU Spokane academic center in the next biennium.

The addition to Johnson Hall is planned as a four-story research and teaching laboratory building of approximately 104,000 gross square feet. The new addition will extend along Stadium Way to the corner of Wilson Road.

The proposed location for the academic center facility is in the middle of the Riverpoint campus between the existing classroom building and the recently completed health sciences building. The new facility will enable WSU to move out of remaining spaces that are leased in Spokane and consolidate administrative, faculty and student services on the WSU Riverpoint campus.

The regents also approved a doctoral program in communication and bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in biotechnology. Both will be effective in the fall.

The proposed doctoral program in communication requires a common core of courses in intercultural communication. The program at WSU will draw on the combined heritage of communication studies and mass communication programs in a quest to help citizens of the state of Washington cope with the intercultural forces that shape and reshape relationships, organizations and institutions.

Also, the board approved name changes for three university units. The Department of Agricultural Economics will become the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Department of Pharmacy Practice will become the Department of Pharmacotherapy. Another change includes the Hotel and Restaurant Administration program to the School of Hospitality Business Management.