PULLMAN – WSU leaders are working toward implementing strategic budget cuts, not across-the-board cuts, said President Elson S. Floyd in Wednesday’s State of the University address.
He has asked administrative vice presidents to submit budget plans for their areas by Oct. 15 and he expects to hold public hearings on those plans later this year.
“Everything must and should be on the table as we attempt to balance the budget,” Floyd said.
No across-the-board cuts
During the question-and-answer session following the speech, he said he does not plan to make cuts across the board, because such cuts lead to “mediocrity, and we are not a mediocre institution.”
This month, the state informed WSU that it would be required to cut an additional $11.2 million from its budget for the current fiscal year. That comes on top of the $13.5 million reduction already imposed by the state for 2010-11.
Go on the offensive
To help reverse the series of budget reductions, WSU’s 10th president said the university needs to go on the offensive and make a stronger case – to legislators, business leaders and the general public – about the importance of higher education.
Grass roots advocates
Floyd reflected on his experiences this spring and summer when he was visiting counties around the state. As Washington’s land-grant university, WSU has extension offices in all 39 counties.
“It has been inspirational for me to hear from so many Washingtonians about how WSU helps them in their daily lives – through extension, through 4-H, through agricultural research, through distance education, through nutrition counseling, through community building,” he said.
In responding to a question following the speech, he said the university hopes to build more grass-roots support among people who will be advocates for public higher education.
He directly addressed students who attended the speech, held in the Bryan Hall Theatre, telling them that a policy of continued double-digit tuition increases is not sustainable. He expressed concerns that growing financial barriers to higher education were leading to lower college completion rates, which threatens future prosperity.
The president said Washington traditionally has been a magnet for well-educated people from other states who come for job opportunities or quality of life. But continuing to depend on other states to educate our workforce is a short-sighted approach.
“We need to make sure that Washington’s colleges and universities are funded to meet Washington’s needs,” he said.
Floyd cited WSU’s participation in a recent trip by a state delegation to China as one example of the impact of higher education on economic development. The delegation focused on opening new export markets for Washington goods and building new educational partnerships with the world’s most populous nation.
Despite the ongoing budget issues, the president found many university achievements to highlight.
Among those he cited were a record total of grant awards earned by university researchers; record enrollment universitywide; the third highest fundraising year in the history of the WSU Foundation; $14 million in specialty crop grants received by researchers in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; a recently announced partnership with Alaska Airlines, Boeing and the Port of Seattle to develop aviation biofuels; and continued progress in areas of sustainability and water conservation.