Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins discussed the progress the university has made and the and the challenges that lie ahead in his annual State of the University address delivered Wednesday (Sept. 15) at Bryan Hall on the Pullman campus. 

“I believe we are in the right place at the right time. It is not such a long throw for us to get to where we want to be,” Rawlins said, pointing to the university’s goal to become a top research university. “We are doing well. We have set some goals and have made some progress.”

Rawlins, who is in his fifth year as president of WSU, stressed the need to continue moving forward, and he discussed the university’s efforts to establish benchmarks to measure its achievements.

Among those goals are continued controlled enrollment growth, if necessary funding is available; continued gains in academic quality of the incoming student body; increased diversity among faculty, staff and students; more competitive salaries for faculty members; increased graduate school enrollment; increased fundraising through the WSU Foundation and maintaining a balanced budget for athletics while fielding a competitive PAC-10 program.

“We understand, to paraphrase (Albert) Einstein, that not everything that counts can be measured and that not everything that can be measured counts,” Rawlins said. Still, he cited the benchmarks as an important effort to evaluate institutional success.

Rawlins also discussed the budget proposal the state’s two research universities are submitting to the Washington Legislature. Rawlins will join with University of Washington President Mark Emmert to present the joint budget plan of the state’s two research universities at a hearing of the Higher Education Coordinating Board in Olympia Thursday.

Rawlins pointed to increases in enrollment numbers and the quality of the incoming class, increases in grant funding and strong funding of capital projects as indications of the continued strength of the institution. But he said that increases in per student funding were essential to maintain quality while striving to meet strong enrollment demand.

Adjusted for inflation, state funding per WSU student has dropped 18 percent since the 1993-94 fiscal year. The budget request seeks substantial increases in core funding.

Rawlins said higher education funding in the state of Washington lagged in the 1990s. “The sad part is that this is a state that experienced great prosperity in the 1990s. Now we (in higher education) have some make-up to do.

“This is a rich state. It would be one thing if we were, as the saying goes, trying to get blood from a turnip.” Rawlins added that it was not good policy to continue to ask students, through tuition and fees, to pay a larger share of the cost of their education.

As part of the universities’ joint budget request, WSU and the UW are seeking state funding for research and technology transfer. That money would help the two universities develop new research and enhance their efforts to move that research into job-creating businesses in the private sector.

As has become traditional in Rawlins’ State of the University addresses, he outlined the “Top Ten List” of WSU accomplishments over the past academic year. The list includes: implementation of the plan to strengthen WSU’s regional campuses and development of WSU research stations in several areas of the state; avoiding mid-year budget cuts; creation of the Office of Undergraduate Education; continued progress at the WSU Spokane campus; athletics success; creation of the office of vice president for equity and diversity; continued development of the WSU physical plant; external relations programs that have enhanced the university’s image, including Showcase, an event to honor outstanding faculty and staff; the continued progress in recruitment and retention of high-achieving undergraduates; and the research and scholarship of WSU faculty.

The video streamed version of V. Lane Rawlin’s State of the University Address is now available at http://experience.wsu.edu.  If you were unable to attend the address in person, you’re invited to listen online.  In addition, the PowerPoint presentation used by Rawlins for this address is available at http://www.ir.wsu.edu under the “Presentations” link.