By A. Ivanhoe

The Washington state legislature adjourned its legislative session on April 26 after passing the state’s 2009–2011 operating budget, which includes sweeping cuts in funding to the state’s institutions of higher education.
The budget bill (ESHB 1244) designates a general appropriation of approximately $43.1 million to Western for the 2009–2010 academic year and $52.8 million to Western for 2010–2011. Western will also receive one-time grants of approximately $8.9 million in federal stimulus money and $13 million from the Education Legacy Trust Account for the biennium, bringing Western’s total state appropriation to about $117.8 million. This represents a 22.5 percent reduction over Western’s budget.
The legislation directs the university to “minimize impacts on student services and instructional programs by maximizing reductions in administration and other non-instructional activities.” It also identifies “high-demand” fields into which Western should focus its enrollments and degrees. These include biological and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, math and science education, engineering and engineering technology, health and clinical sciences, mathematics and statistics.
The bill also includes a provision that allows the university’s board of trustees to increase tuition charged to resident undergraduate students by up to 14 percent per year, doubling the previous cap of 7 percent. University Planning and Budgeting (UPB) projects that over the next two academic years the tuition hike will bring in about $17.5 million more than tuition for the 2007–2009 period, and a UPB document shows that the university may allocate $1.4 million of that amount toward additional student financial aid.
The combined impact of the budget cuts and tuition increases will be that, for the first time in at least 15 years, the majority of Western’s operating budget will come from tuition rather than from the state appropriation.
In addition to the operating budget, the state legislature also passed EHSB 1216, a capital budget that earmarks funding for specific projects. Western will receive about $101 million for facilities and maintenance projects, including $56.6 million to renovate Miller Hall and $9.3 million for classroom modernization projects.
Unlike the operating budget, which is funded largely through tax revenue, capital projects are funded through 30-year bonds, according to Washington Senator Kevin Ranker in his e-mail newsletter.
Since the AS generates revenue through student fees, the state budget cuts will not directly affect services provided through the AS. However, potential decreases in full-time enrollment due to reduced availability of classes, or for other reasons, would reduce the amount of money coming into the AS, according to AS Vice President for Business and Operations Virgilio Cintron.