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Talking with Governor Inslee

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Washington State Capitol building
November 25, 2014

Along with the presidents of several of the other private, not-for-profit universities in Washington, I had the honor of meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday in his office in the Capitol in Olympia. Our main reason for meeting with him was to stress our desire to see the State Need Grant (a subsidy from the state that supplements the Federal Pell Grant for students who can’t afford college) restored to the levels in place before the Great Recession. A key concern for us is the split that cropped up a few years ago between the level of funding given to students attending the state’s public research universities (UW and WSU) and the 10 private universities in the state. In the last legislative session, the Legislature passed a resolution indicating a desire to restore parity between the research universities and the private colleges, but now, in the current session, we’ll need to see that resolution carried into effect.

Here are a few of our arguments in favor of restoring the state’s support for needy students being educated at the state’s private colleges:

– The 10 private colleges in Washington enroll nearly 40,000 students (roughly equal to UW-Seattle).
– These colleges confer 20 percent of the degrees granted in Washington.
– Students at these colleges receive only 2 percent of the state’s higher-education budget.
– Our 10 colleges collectively have the capacity to grow by 20 percent over the next eight years.
– For every $1 in state support, our colleges invest over $14 in grant aid.
– Our 10 colleges grant over $333 million in grants to students.
– Our 10 colleges employ more than 7,000 faculty and staff and generate more than $2 billion annually to the state’s economy.

For all these reasons, we support the state’s investment in students with demonstrated need to attend college; supporting the State Need Grant is an especially good investment for the state, since students who attend our colleges are better supported through their educational journeys and graduate is higher numbers.

Gov. Inslee pointed out to us that the coming Legislative Session will be difficult, since the state supreme court has ordered certain expenditures on K-12 education and for mental-health services. The governor pointed out that the state will need to raise revenue to afford all that needs to be done. He noted that Washington used to be 11th in the nation in per-person revenue generating but has dropped to 33rd, as revenues from many sources have dried up due to changes in the economic model (he mentioned online sales cutting into sales tax revenue, for example). He is quite open to ideas for increasing revenue, and welcomes input and feedback from all parts of the state. He urged us college presidents to help citizens understand the problem of the shortfall in revenue and to be thinking about ways to solve it.

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