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Dear Members of the UW Community:

There has been a good deal of media coverage recently about the possible impacts of significant state budget cuts at the UW. These stories are in response to a request we received from some of our state legislative leaders who wanted to know what state budget reductions would look like at our University at three levels for 2011-13: the biennial cut proposed by the Governor, or $189.8 million; the Governor’s proposed cut plus 15 percent, or $218 million; and the Governor’s proposed cut plus 30 percent, or $246 million. To put these biennial numbers in context, the UW’s current annual appropriation for FY11 is $307 million; without factoring in tuition increases for next year, the highest cut level of $246 million ($123 million/year) would reduce our current appropriation by 40 percent. We provided a thorough, detailed response to the legislators’ request, which you can read here.

To say that the impacts identified in our response are sobering is an understatement, to say the least. Our University is built on a foundation of state investment. State funding keeps the UW affordable and accessible to Washington’s sons and daughters. It helps pay for the costs for faculty who teach and mentor our students. It provides financial aid and access for students who otherwise couldn’t afford college. And it leverages more than $9 billion in economic impact and generates 70,000 jobs to help secure our state’s economic future. Without state funding and strategic solutions, everything is at risk. The opportunities. The economic impact. The future of our state.

As I talk to people throughout our University community, it’s clear that no one can remember a time quite as challenging as this. I understand that everyone has felt—and continues to feel—the pain of our budget challenges. But I want to remind you that this is not our first brush with tough times. The UW was founded during the Civil War, and we’ve weathered two world wars, the Great Depression, and numerous ups and downs in the economy since then. We’ve persevered through all of these things and more, and we’ve emerged as one of the best public research universities in the world. Going forward, our top priority will continue to be maintaining our quality. While there is no question that the next few years will be difficult, we will continue to stay true to our mission to provide the best possible learning experience for our students, and we will continue to position ourselves to address society’s most pressing problems through cutting-edge research and discovery. Essential to doing this is that we maintain our ability to recruit and retain the very best faculty and staff.

Our University and our state are at a critical point. As our state leaders work throughout the remainder of winter and the beginning of spring on the state budget, the UW is fully committed to working with them and our other partners across the state to solve our toughest challenges and to help our state thrive well into the future.

As we work through our own budget challenges at the UW, I want to reassure all of you that the processes we will use will be transparent and that everyone will have an opportunity to stay informed and involved. To this end, I will be holding a town hall meeting for the UW community on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. I will begin the meeting with a brief presentation about our budget situation and then will open the floor to questions. The meeting will be webcast live on UWTV.org. The logistical details are below.

  • When: Tuesday, March 8, 2011
  • Where: Kane Hall, Room 130
  • Time: 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

I hope you will join me and participate in this important discussion. Public higher education in our state is clearly at a crossroads. The decisions being made now will put us on a path that will not only carry us through the next few years, but will impact our children—and our children’s children—for years to come. I invite you to have your say in those decisions.

Sincerely,

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Phyllis M. Wise
Interim President