PULLMAN, Wash. For the first time Washington State University and University of Washington Boards of Regents met together and the issue that brought them to a common table today was the need for adequate funding for their respective universities.
In separate actions, both boards unanimously approved a joint resolution stating they support the position not to increase enrollment at their schools unless and until significant progress is made in closing the gap between per student state appropriations and the average per student state appropriations of each university’s comparison institutions.
In addition, the resolution stated that any budget reductions must be accompanied by enrollment reductions in order to maintain quality and allow current students to graduate on time with the skills they need to compete.
“This is a great time to work together,” WSU President V. Lane Rawlins told the regents. “There is more demand by better students, research grants are available and society understands the need for our research.”
University of Washington Interim President Lee Huntsman said the consequences of the meeting between the two boards goes beyond the upcoming legislative session. “This will become a lasting relationship. The immediate focus is the session, but secondly, it is to state the sheer importance of these institutions.
“This will be a partnership that serves the state,” Huntsman said.
Over the last decade, state appropriations per student, even in inflation-adjusted dollars, have decline, leaving WSU and UW nearly 20 percent behind the average funding of their respective comparison institutions.
The inadequate funding makes it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and provide the level of educational excellence citizens of Washington have a right to expect from their public research universities, said regents in the resolution.
Providing high quality education is a responsibility the state historically has assumed, recognizing in so doing the public good that results from a highly educated, productive citizenry, the resolution stated. It is unquestionably in the state’s interest to ensure that its two research universities continue to benefit Washington’s citizens.
The presidents emphasized through the research conducted by faculty and students at the two universities, business, industry, agriculture and health care benefit. Improved processes and products and new ventures help assure the state’s future economic well-being.
The board members recognized that their action not to increase enrollment numbers without additional state support is significant the “bite,” according to Rawlins. “But we pledge to work with each other and be supportive throughout the project.”
WSU Regent Bill Marler said the boards have to take a stand. “We can’t take more students if it means a decrease in the quality of the education we offer. Higher education won’t go down any more on my watch,” he stated. “It is time for the state and its citizens to see WSU and UW as economic drivers of Washington.”
UW Regent Sally Jewell reminded the boards that the legislature, too, is facing a difficult situation. “But we are willing to help get the information out about the importance of higher education,” she said.
Board members also emphasized the importance of sharing their efforts with their faculty, staff, students and alumni and others. “There now is a platform of awareness; people are listening,” Huntsman said.
The two boards met at WSU’s Lewis Alumni Centre. The two groups will tour the university on Saturday and then attend the Apple Cup.