PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University V. Lane Rawlins put forward a positive vision of the academic and financial future of the university during his annual State of the University address, delivered Tuesday (Sept. 16) in Bryan Hall on the Pullman campus.

“While the (budget) picture could be better, it is far less bleak, frankly, than I had feared as we were working through the budget with the legislature at a time when each revenue forecast brought worse and worse news,” Rawlins said. The university ended up having its budget appropriation reduced by $10 million.

“Certainly those reductions caused some problems and we are still working through the details. The good news is that these are the only reductions we should have in the biennium,” Rawlins said.

The WSU president said, through careful management of the budget, the university will be able to fund a 2 percent average salary increase for faculty and administrative personnel, effective Jan. 1, 2004. This will be the first general salary increase for faculty and professional staff in more than two years. Rawlins said funding for salary increases, which was not allocated by the legislature, was a top priority.

Rawlins said university leaders have explored every option for providing an equivalent increase for classified staff, but they have been informed that this is not possible in the current system, in which those salaries are set on a state level. He expressed the hope that new civil service regulations will allow WSU to treat all its employees equally in such a situation.

While tight budgets have prevented any general salary increase in recent years, Rawlins said the university has reallocated other funding to allow for pay increases for nearly a third of faculty and administrative staff and more than half of classified staff during that time.

Rawlins said that he believes the future funding picture is brighter, for Washington State University and for higher education in general. WSU is continuing to benefit from strong enrollments. Other funding sources, such as grants and contracts and private giving, are increasing as state allocations have diminished. The state funding picture should brighten as the economy improves. Also, Rawlins pointed to a growing understanding in the business community and the legislature about the importance of investing in higher education.

He spoke of attending a recent meeting with legislators and leaders of technology-based businesses. After listening to their presentations on the importance of higher education, he said, “I could not have written it that well myself.”

Rawlins said that during the upcoming year, university leaders will be developing benchmarks to judge the university’s progress in areas ranging from quality of undergraduate education to faculty, staff and student diversity to research funding and performance. “The implementation of our strategic plan requires that we do our best to mark our progress toward our goals and dreams,” he said.

As he has done in recent years, Rawlins finished his speech with a list of what he saw as Washington State University’s top ten accomplishments of the previous year.

They are, in reverse order:

  • progress made in constructing and funding new research facilities on campus, including the opening of the shock physics building and funding for the plant biotechnology building;
  • the outstanding performance of the WSU Athletic Department;
  • the fund-raising success of the WSU Foundation;
  • launching of an initiative to strengthen WSU’s urban campuses;
  • the university’s timely response to a variety of crisis situations;
  • the largest graduating class in WSU history;
  • the improvement of WSU’s image through the university’s marketing and legislative efforts and its alliance with the University of Washington in the Cougars and Huskies campaign;
  • admission of the best-prepared freshman class in WSU history;
  • increased recognition and research funding of WSU faculty;
  • and the university’s designation by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top 50 public research universities.