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WSU gets positive news in operating, capital budgets

Washington State University will receive a 17.9 percent increase in operating funding over the next two years and the largest biennial capital budget in its history as a result of budgets approved by the Legislature over the weekend.

“We are very pleased and grateful about the level of support that the governor and the Legislature have shown for higher education in general, and for WSU in particular,” said Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins. “We strongly argued that support for higher education is fundamental for Washington’s economic future. This budget gives us the tools that we need to move forward.”

The operating budget is a compromise between the budgets passed earlier by the House and the Senate. The total funding of $508.6 million for WSU is a 17.9 percent increase over the current biennium and provides funding for many new or expanded programs that are high priorities of the state and the university, particularly in health care education, math and science education and bio-products technology.

Although the funding levels for some WSU initiatives were cut from the earlier House and Senate budgets, the budget does advance WSU’s most important proposals.

The conference budget authorizes tuition increases of 7 percent per year, and allows WSU to retain all tuition increases for quality improvements and to pay for program cost increases.

The budget provides for enrollment growth on all of WSU’s campuses, 590 new general enrollments ($5.3 million) for the WSU system. It provides 80 enrollments over the biennium for Pullman-Spokane, 110 for WSU Tri-Cities and 400 new enrollments for WSU Vancouver.

The conference budget also provides for salary increase averaging 3.2 percent on Sept. 1, 2007, and 2.0 percent on Sept. 1, 2008, a step WSU leaders said was important to help retain high-performing faculty and staff.

Other key initiatives funded by the conference budget include the WWAMI medical and dental education effort in Spokane ($6.36 million, about $1 million less than requested); increased nursing enrollments ($2.356 million); the industry-based agriculture research initiative ($6 million including $0.7 million for Mt. Vernon facility maintenance); the bio-energy research initiative ($4 million); and the Applied Sciences Laboratory in Spokane ($3 million).

Although no mention of it had been made throughout the session, the conference budget cuts $1.6 million from graduate programs stating the “state subsidy for the education of graduate students who are not Washington residents is reduced by 10 percent.” Since resident and non-resident students enroll in the same classes, the reduction will damage program quality for all students.

The budget does not provide funding requested by WSU to offset increased expenditures for energy costs.

On the capital side, WSU will receive funding to complete the Pullman Life Sciences Building ($58 million) and build the Vancouver Undergraduate Classroom Building ($24.35 million). The budget also includes funding to design the Vancouver Applied Technology Classroom Building ($4.77 million).

The capital budget includes a generous allocation of $38.9 million to fund a wide variety of repair, rehabilitation and preservation projects for WSU buildings to meet environmental and safety regulations and to extend the buildings’ useful life.

The capital budget also funds $17 million in minor works to retrofit and equip older buildings for cutting-edge research and education. The university’s plans to add an emergency siren, public address and notification system for the Pullman campus will also be covered by this allocation. Rawlins has announced that WSU plans to install similar systems on the other three campuses as well.

For WSU, the final capital budget closely parallels the recommendations made by Gov. Christine Gregoire in December and is identical to the budgets passed earlier by the House and the Senate.

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