By Allison Milton/The AS Review


In the spring of 2009, Western’s budget was cut by 29 percent, and in September of the same year, tuition increased by 14 percent.


As we look ahead to next year, it is inevitable that budgets will be cut and tuition will increase, but the magnitude of the cuts may be partly dependent on students’ involvement with the process.


"Students have the ability to limit the negative impacts [the budget cuts and tuition increases] have on Western," AS VP for Governmental Affairs Morgan Holmgren said.


Because the state’s budget is decreasing, Western’s is as well. In 2008, 60 percent the university’s operating budget was funded by the state’s general fund. The next year, in 2009, state support went down to 43 percent. Hence Western’s dilemma.


Holmgren said there are three options the state has in order to handle the budget shortfalls in regards to higher education.


The first is a straight budget cut to the university ranging from 2 percent to 30 percent. This budget cut would mean possible layoffs or program cuts and how the university would handle it would be up to President Shepard, Holmgren said.


The second option is to cut financial aid. Whether it would be to limit those eligible for financial aid or to limit the money going to each student, the cut would cause financial aid to not increase when tuition does.


The third option is to add another tuition increase on top of the already anticipated 14 percent. This increase would probably be around 10 percent, Holmgren said.


"Anything on top of the current [14 percent] cut is going to mean more drastic and tangible effects on students," he said.


Holmgren said the legislature can choose any one of these three options and the most likely option would be a combination of all three.


But, these increases and cuts don’t have to be as drastic.


In the upcoming months, there are actions students can take to potentially lessen the impact that these options will have on Western. The legislature goes into their 60-day session on Jan. 11 to make the decisions that will affect Western for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year.


"Students need to communicate to the legislature on how tuition increases and budget cuts have affected them," Holmgren said. "It’s the personal stories that have an effect on the legislature."


Holmgren said right now the legislature hears from student lobbyists and not average students. Because they only hear from a select group of students, they assume that these budget cuts and tuition increases don’t affect the average student and that they don’t care, he said. In order to really make a difference, the legislature needs to hear personal stories from students who will be directly affected by a tuition increase, Holmgren said.


From Jan. 17 to 18, students will be given the opportunity to share their stories with state legislators at Viking Lobby Day. A group of about 50 students will go to Olympia and get the chance to speak directly with their representatives. Students may register for this opportunity but there are limited spots. This is a free opportunity and registration is on a first come, first serve basis.


Holmgren said students can also sign up for e-mail updates at wastudents.org to keep track of what the legislature is doing and how students can get involved.


 


write your reps!


 


If you are a Whatcom County registered voter, the contact information for your local elected representatives are listed below.


 


Senator Dale Brandland:

203 Irv Newhouse Building
PO Box 40442
Olympia, WA 98504-0442
(360) 786-7682


Representative Doug Ericksen:


425B Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7980


Representative Kelli Linville:

204 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7854