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Low revenue impacts WSU
Next month's revenue forecasts and federal legislation may result in further cuts to higher education
Published 8/19/2011
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With a $108 million budget shortfall looming at WSU, further cuts may fall upon university students due to the state and federal budget crises.

Earlier this month Gov. Chris Gregoire sent an email to all Washington state employees, including WSU staff, explaining that each agency has been asked to submit plans for further reductions of 5 percent and 10 percent, depending on the state revenue forecast for September.

“The uncertainty our state could experience as a result of downgraded credit ratings, federal debt concerns, European markets and the lingering effects of the tsunami in Japan, are causing us to be extra cautious,” she said in the email.

Marty Brown, director of the Office of Financial Management, said states are currently waiting with baited breath for the revenue forecasts, and that until the economy improves the state is stuck.

“I don’t know how we can ask any more out of the higher ed institutions,” he said. “I’ve got the same problems at corrections, our medical assistants; I’m not sure how we’re going to do this if we have to go that deep.”

WSU Chief University Budget Officer Joan King estimates the cuts at the WSU level could result in a $13.5 million cut at the 5-percent level, and $27 million at the 10-percent level.

While nothing has been finalized or proposed to the governor yet, she said the process of making a proposal will most likely involve “peanut butter-ing,” or skimming 5 and 10 percent off community outreach, instruction, research and administration budgets.

“Doing this equally isn't a plan, but it's a response to the governor saying this will be the impact,” she said. “It's just to meet this target. I think that the governor would recognize that too. Would we cut instruction ten percent? I doubt it.”

The Office of Financial Aid may also see cuts coming in the wake of the federal budget. With a freshman class of more than 4,200, one of the largest classes in WSU history, and the state economy failing to improve, more students are eligible for financial aid but not receiving it.

Director for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships Chio Flores said the office anticipates it will serve about 4,500 with a total of $34 million, expecting at least 2,500 or more without grants, an increase of almost 1,000 from the 2008-2009 school year. However, most students who will not receive grants submitted their financial aid materials after the priority deadline.

"It doesn’t meet the need of our students," she said. "The level is higher and the student number is higher than before."

At the federal level, Pell Grants are also on the table to be cut. Although they survived the deficit-reduction bill passed by Congress earlier this month, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators report the Pell Grant faces a $1.3 billion shortfall for the 2012-13 award year, depending on recommendations made by the Super Committee.

Flores said it is going to be a fight to maintain Pell Grants at the current level but does not expect them to go away.

“(Pell Grants) are considered a sacred cow,” she said. “For that to be bandied around as a potential reduction, that’s a scary thing.”

The revenue forecast will be released next month. Joan King said any final cuts will not be determined until next January.

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