Finally – a happy ending


The legislature adjourned just before 7:30 this morning after working all night on a budget that leaves CWU in the black for the first time in years.

Central ended the year in the plus column, up about $1 million in state funds for the current biennium. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of $66 million over the last three years. But the best budget in four years is also a sign that the worst of the state budget free-fall may be over.

The positive budget outcome is the result of a budget correction. In 2009 the legislature estimated the amount of tuition revenue each university could expect to raise and then deducted that amount and a few million more from the budget base of each school.

CWU’s deduction was overstated–and the overage has compounded ever since, growing to  a total error of $1.63 million.  Last fall we took the error to legislative staff who checked our numbers and confirmed the mistake.

Ever since then, CWU staff, President Gaudino, trustees, and others have worked hard to explain the error to lawmakers. The correction didn’t show up in the budget proposals of the governor or the House. But thanks to the determination of Senator Janéa Holmquist Newbry, the Senate’s proposal and the final budget agreement included CWU’s $1.63-million correction.

Thanks to Director of Government Relations Ann Anderson and Government Relations Specialist Steve DuPont who spent 60 harrowing days and nights on the ground in Olympia during the regular session talking and meeting and testifying on the need for our budget correction. More thanks to the president and to trustees Morrison and Erickson for their calls and meetings with lawmakers to turn the tide for CWU.

Let us now celebrate.

What else is in the budget? 

Expanding access to STEM programs – The budget directs each institution to expand enrollment in science, technology, engineering and math. By June 30, 2012 CWU must report to the legislature how we’ll grow these enrollments by $406,000 over the biennium.

Tuition waiver study – Each university must conduct a comprehensive review of tuition waiver policies. A report to the legislature is due by December 1, 2012 that outlines how waivers are used, what they cost, the results they produce outcomes, and recommendations for policy changes.

Athletics funding – The budget prohibits universities from spending state general fund appropriations on intercollegiate athletic programs–which doesn’t affect CWU, which uses no state general funds for athletics.

Differential tuition – The budget prohibits institutions from requiring students to pay different tuition levels for different programs for the rest of the 2011-13 biennium. Tuition increases and reductions have to be uniform for all resident undergraduates.  One driver of this study? The very popular pre-paid tuition program, the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. Actuaries that set tuition unit purchase prices are understandable nervous by the thought that they would have to set this price with wildly fluctuating tuition rates within and among institutions.

 

Thank goodness session is over. It’s just about time to start planning for the next one. I’m not kidding. Today facilities and government relations staff had a briefing with the state budget office about the 2013-15 capital budget priorities. (Sigh…)  Here we go!

 

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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