July 11, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 12

Eastern's budget is now official

State budget freezes 2014 tuition, provides revenue making up some of cuts

Eastern you have a budget – finally.

Eastern Washington University board of trustees made it official by unanimously adopting its 2013-2015 budget at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon in Hargreaves Hall.

With several members attending via phone the board approved a $497.74 million two-year budget that contained no tuition increase for resident undergraduates in 2014 and a 6 percent across the board hike in 2015. Tuition for resident graduates and all non-resident students will increase 7 percent in 2014 and 6 percent in 2015, with all mandatory fees and rates, such as housing and dining, also going up as previously scheduled.

The board had adopted a “tentative” two-year budget at its June 20 meeting, based upon what university anticipated they would receive whenever negotiations between the state House and Senate were concluded. The Legislature needed the entire regular session and two special sessions to adopt a budget, passed and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee June 30.

They also needed a bit of budgetary encouragement, which EWU legislative representative David Buri said they received in the form of extra revenue. Earlier last month the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council predicted “slow economic and job growth” at both the state and national levels, a prediction that could put $231 million more in state coffers through 2015.

They also received a report that demand for state services had declined, Buri added, putting an additional $90 million into the funding kitty. The additional $320 million helped the Legislature increase higher education, with Eastern receiving a 15.7 percent increase.

It also helped that EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and his counterparts at the other four-year institutions were able to convince representatives that higher education had absorbed most of the funding cuts over the past four years, nearly 28 percent, while two-year and technical colleges had escaped with about 4 percent reductions. The result was a 12.4 percent increase to higher education, and 7.8 percent to two-year and technical schools.

“That was a little bit of a change in philosophy as well,” Buri told the board.

The presidents also sent a letter to the Legislature saying if they held biennial funding at maintenance levels, i.e. no more cuts, and restored some of the lost dollars, the four-years would be able to hold tuition rates at zero. EWU vice president for business and finance Mary Voves said they demonstrated to legislators what those figures would mean in terms of tuition increases.

“For Eastern that was 7 percent, and they came up with $3 million more (over that amount),” Voves said. “Makes me think they listened to us.”

Overall Eastern emerged with $78 million in state funding for the two years, compared to $73 million in the House budget proposal, which allowed tuition increases, and $76 million in the Senate version, which allowed no increase but provided additional state funding.

Overall in the biennium resident undergraduate rates would rise by $147 per quarter, all of that in 2015, bringing the annual tuition rate to $7,812. It remains at $7,372 in 2014.

Resident graduate rates increase $212 per quarter in 2014, and $207 again in 2015. The university is budgeting for state-supported enrollment of 10,270 in fiscal year 2014 and 10,427 in 2015.

Voves said uses of the new revenue remain unchanged from what was adopted at the June 20 meeting. Most of that will go to helping student success, which could be anything from more faculty to additional programs.

“Whatever the pieces are that help students get through their programs and successfully graduate from Eastern,” Voves said.

Just over $1.7 million has been designated for new faculty positions, and $531,000 for nine more full-time employees among classified staff. Information technology investments will be $333,000, with some monies going to capital investments due to the decline in the capital budget, something Voves said the university needs to look at more in anticipation of less capital money from the state in the future.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting the board unanimously agreed to extend Arévalo’s contract for another year while also increasing his compensation annually by $50,000. Arévalo currently receives $234,000 a year, a figure media relations director Dave Meany said was set in 2008.

Board chairman Paul Tanaka said trustees were pleased with the EWU president’s performance “not only in the past year but previous years.” He added that Arévalo has been working on trying to get Eastern’s faculty increases to at least market rates comparable to similar institutions.

“The board felt it was important to view our president’s compensation in the same way,” Tanaka said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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