Presidents Lament Budget Cuts Draining State's Universities

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cutbacks to higher education are causing a brain drain at Washington public universities, and the state is gaining a national reputation for the severity of cuts, the presidents of Washington's six four-year higher-education institutions said Wednesday.

"Washington is now known as a place to go headhunting" for out-of-state universities hiring new faculty, said Bruce Shepard, president of Western Washington University (WWU). "This is a real threat, long term, to sustaining the excellence of our universities."

In a wide-ranging discussion attended by about 400 people at Town Hall Seattle, the presidents spoke forcefully about the level of hurt the universities have sustained, calling it a calamity, a crisis and a threat to the schools' long-term viability. But there were few suggestions for how to make up the cutbacks.

Washington ranks 48th among the states in per capita enrollment in public baccalaureate (undergraduate) programs, although it has one of the highest rates of community-college enrollment in the country. In the past four years, funding for the state's five universities and one four-year college — The Evergreen State College — was cut by about 50 percent. The state now is funding four-year schools at about the same level it did in 1991.

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