WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

Cougar Chat, The state of higher education in Washington State

The State of Higher Education in Washington State – WSU efficiencies and streamlining

Washington State University (WSU) has been working to bring efficiencies and operational reforms to meet growing competitive demands during tough economic times. Since the start of the “Great Recession” in late 2007, WSU has taken several steps to streamline operations and restructure the university while maintaining a quality educational experience, providing research, and delivering services as part of the land-grant mission.

The First Round of State Cuts

WSU saw indications of the recession starting in early 2008. WSU responded by acting to restrain expenses including a slowdown in hiring and a moratorium on new academic programs, degrees, and courses.

The stark reality of the recession became clear when WSU was required to return $10.5 million to the Office of Financial Management (the Governor’s office) by June 30, 2009. At that time, the loss of these state funds required WSU to change its budget. Reductions were made primarily in the administrative areas. There were also additional, but smaller cuts made to the academic units, all in the effort to2008 recession protect the core academic mission of the university.

Also in 2009, the WSU Regents approved a voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program to reduce WSU faculty and administrative costs.

The 2009-2011 Biennial Budget

The 2009-2011 biennial state budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, included another significant budget reduction for WSU. The university worked collaboratively with two internal teams to address the new state-funding cutbacks. In July 2009, WSU’s final budget plan cut approximately 360 vacant and filled jobs, eliminated three academic programs, and implemented a number of administrative cost-cutting measures to reduce spending.

In addition, WSU President Elson Floyd took a voluntary salary reduction of $100,000 and the top administrators at the university agreed to participate in and contribute to WSU excellence funds at an aggregate level of 5% of base salary.

The WSU Regents approved another voluntary retirement plan for 2010. The university also began the process of consolidating operations and eliminating duplications in services.

The 2010 Supplemental Cuts

In May 2010, the Legislature approved and the Governor signed a supplemental budget, further reducing WSU’s allocation of the state budget.

The university announced a new process to deal with job vacancies, a reduction in administrative positions, and combining several administrative units to attain economies of scale and to reduce costs.

legislature in sessionBy December 2010, in collaboration with the administrative and academic leaders, WSU eliminated 32 positions, and 132 unfilled positions were permanently removed.

When the legislature met again in special session in December 2010, more cuts were announced for WSU. New plans were submitted by the WSU administrative and academic leaders, and one-time saving actions were implemented. These actions included holding positions open, reductions in travel and purchases, transfer of some positions to grant funding, and increased use of temporary instructional faculty.

2011-2013 Budget Cycle – reality of 52% cuts hits home

By 2011, WSU was called upon once again to reduce its budget in alignment with another reduction to the state budget allocation. WSU was grappling with a net state-appropriated budget reduction of 52% or $231.0 million. By this point, WSU had 500 fewer employees and student tuition was rising by double digits.

The university worked diligently to preserve the quality of its academic programs and most of the new cuts were made through administrative reductions and reorganization.

Academic leaders met in the fall of 2011 to make a number of academic consolidations, mergers, and reorganizations in several units. In addition, Intercollegiate Athletics redirected part of its budget to assist the institution.

Capital budgets were reduced and additional budgeting activities took place to ensure WSU could balance its budget in the face of the declining state support. The result was a renewed process to build on the efficiencies already instituted and a leaner, more focused WSU.impact-of-recession-570x386

2012 – a turning point

In the face of ongoing, difficult financial circumstances, the legislature in 2012 made a strong commitment to higher education and WSU. No additional cuts were made and the legislature recognized the need to bring reforms so the university could operate more efficiently.

The legislature also provided support for WSU in areas of advancing medical education throughout the state and increasing engineering student enrollment uniting residents with opportunities for education and jobs, particularly in aerospace.

2013-2015 Biennial Budget – looking ahead

The legislature is currently in session and will be crafting a new budget for the coming biennium.  The  legislators are facing continuing budget challenges and new pressures created by the Washington Supreme Court ruling relating to state funding of K-12 education.

WSU is currently prioritizing requests that will preserve quality, restore affordability, leverage partnerships, and promote interdisciplinary research.  In addition, President Floyd has joined with the five other public universities and college presidents to ask for a $225 million reinvestment in higher education.

Time will tell how the legislature will balance demands while recognizing the reductions already made, the efficiencies and cost savings that have been implemented, and the accountability measures now in place.

Budget Reduction and Efficiency Actions 2008-2011, Washington State University Budget Office, 2011
Budget Reduction Plan – Perspectives, Office of the President, Elson S. Floyd, PhD, Washington State University, 2011
How Washington Pays for Higher Education, Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2011



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