Faced with a lack of definitive funding numbers from the state Legislature the Eastern Washington University board of trustees voted unanimously to approve a nearly $500 million budget for the 2013-2015 biennium. The trustees adopted the “preliminary” budget based upon what they think will be coming from Olympia at some point, agreeing to hold a special trustee meeting later this summer to approve final figures.
“This is a review of what we expect the budget to look like after the Legislature acts,” EWU vice president for business and finance Mary Voves told the board prior to what would have normally been the budget’s second reading and final passage last Thursday.
Eastern officials don’t expect cuts, as has happened over the past two budget cycles, as neither legislative chamber’s higher education budgets contained overall reductions. Depending on how any compromise works out the university could likely see a small increase in funding.
In April, Washington’s Council of Presidents sent a letter to the Legislature requesting “maintenance level” budgets be maintained at each of the state’s six, four-year institutions; funding that includes utility costs along with maintenance and operating state-funded buildings and state-approved classified employee contracts. To do this while keeping tuition increases to a minimum would require new funding, which is not likely to happen to any significant degree.
Barring that, university maintaining of tuition authority would be the key to “providing quality education.”
Eastern has requested a 7 percent increase in tuition for resident and non-resident undergraduates and graduates in 2014 and 2015, as has the University of Washington as well as Western and Central Washington universities. Even with the tuition increase, Eastern – at $7,845 a year in 2014 and $8,394 in 2015 – would remain the least expensive of the six universities.
The tuition increase would generate gross operating fee revenue of more than $175 million in the next biennium, $142,264,000 after subtracting tuition waivers, grants and allowing for uncollectibles and then adding back in interest income. That would mean new operating fee revenue of $12,961,000 over the two years, revenue a campus-wide survey of faculty, staff and students indicated should be prioritized for investing in student academic support services, existing academic programs, faculty and staff salary increases and minimizing tuition increase impacts.
Voves told the board compensation increases eventually “rose to the top of the list.” Other uses of the new revenue include new faculty positions, restoring nine full-time equivalent classified staff spots, investment in information technology – mainly some needed large software programs – as well as capital investments, which would be limited to repairing rather than building.
The trustees also approved the university’s $39.5 million 2013-2015 capital budget. The budget included $20.86 million of reappropriations most of which – $13.88 million – goes to completing the Patterson Hall remodel.
Eastern will receive $18.64 million in new appropriations, a far cry from what it has received in the past for several large building or remodeling projects. Just over $8.7 million goes to minor works preservation projects, with $7.28 million designated for upgrades and repairs to the university’s water system. Only $350,000 is designated for design work on the university’s next large project, a much-needed renovation of its Science Center building.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.