The Office of the President resides on the fourth floor of the French Administration building. The entryway is cold, with white walls, a symmetrical sitting area and a black desk trimmed with silver. There are no windows other than those facing out into French, but abstract pictures hang on the walls, heavily matted and set in silver frames.
The president’s office itself, however, stands in stark contrast to the waiting area. It’s warm, open, decorated with the familiar Cougar colors of crimson and gray. Picture after picture of former student stands framed on a table in one corner and a wall of windows provides a view of the rolling hills of the Palouse.
It was here President Elson S. Floyd sat with The Daily Evergreen to discuss his college experience and some of the changes occurring at Washington State University.
Floyd went to the University of North Carolina for both undergraduate and graduate work and then worked in the North Carolina System. After that, he became a vice president at Eastern Washington University, spent time as an executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board and later served as presidents at Western Michigan University and the University of Missouri System before arriving at WSU in 2007.
Floyd, the oldest of four children, was raised by his mother, a factory worker, and father, a brick mason. He said neither achieved higher than a middle school education, and when he entered UNC as a first-generation college student he had entered foreign territory.
“College was something (my parents) had no familiarity with, but it was something they were very passionate about,” he said. “Fortunately all four of their sons graduated, which is really a remarkable story.”
Floyd said his background influences the decisions he makes regarding the university’s budget. Although he had the scholarships to cover his tuition, room and board, which cost about $3,200, the president worked throughout the summer to cover additional money he knew he would need for school.
At $9,866, WSU’s tuition alone is about three times what Floyd said he paid for tuition, room and board — and 16 percent greater than last year’s rate, in line with the initial proposal made by the state Senate earlier this year for tuition increase.
As he deals with the university's $108 million biennium shortfall with the potential for more cuts in the future, Floyd said he will remain “bullish” about WSU and the country.
“I am very optimistic about this country and where WSU is going to go,” he said. “As long as we keep our priorities in alignment, we will climb out of this fiscal crisis.”