The 2018 Supplemental Budget, which was finalized by the state legislature earlier this week, establishes a new undergraduate degree program in Marine, Coastal and Watershed Sciences, as well as funding to develop an Early Childhood Education program in partnership with Olympic College as part of the Western on the Peninsulas program.
The operating budget also directs WWU to conduct a study exploring the feasibility of creating a four-year degree granting campus on the Kitsap or Olympic Peninsula, with a report on the findings due to the Governor and the Legislature by December 2018.
As you may recall, Western’s initial request for the supplemental budget focused on addressing capacity backlog in STEM areas and a new degree in Marine, Coastal and Watershed Sciences. As the session progressed, legislative leaders also expressed interest in funding for an Early Childhood Education program in Poulsbo, and funding for a feasibility study to assess educational needs on the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas and the potential for expanding Western on the Peninsulas to address those needs.
In summary, the funding for these requests includes:
- $1.3 million for a new degree program in Marine, Coastal and Watershed Sciences;
- $700,000 to create and implement a degree program in Early Childhood Education in Poulsbo;
- $70,000 for a feasibility study for educational needs on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas.
On the capital side, the Legislature approved our request to shift $1.5 million from WWU local funds to state bond funds, which will enable us to move forward with all of our capital projects.
The Legislature also adopted several important policy bills during the 2018 session that will have significant impact on Western students. Perhaps most important was the passage of House Bill 1488, which ensures that all low-income Washington students, regardless of immigration status, are eligible to receive the College Bound and Opportunity Scholarships.
Finally, the Legislature increased funding for the State Need Grant program to serve an additional 4,600 students with the goal to fully fund the program by 2022. This is welcome news for our students. Currently, almost a third of about 4,000 Western students eligible for State Need Grant funding do not receive support from the program.
On behalf of Western, I want to convey our sincere appreciation to the Legislature and leadership of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Higher Education Committees in both chambers for supporting Western’s funding priorities. The programs funded in the supplemental budget will enable Western to increase access for qualified Washington students in areas important for the workforce needs of the state and, in particular, helps Western to continue its commitment to provide access to higher education programs on the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas.
Regarding the request to address backlog in foundational courses, particularly in STEM areas, we have internally allocated resources to address those issues. Working with the academic deans, Provost Carbajal has allocated eight new tenure-track positions for immediate recruitment in the colleges of Science and Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Huxley College of the Environment. Also, we are working on providing additional laboratory and office space in several of those disciplines to address immediate space needs, while we work with the Legislature to secure funding of a new interdisciplinary science building during the 2019-21 biennium.
On a related note, I just returned from Washington, D.C. where I had the opportunity to visit with several members of our federal delegation. Western’s 2018 federal priorities, for which we have asked for continued support and advocacy, are:
- Increased funding for Federal Pell Grant and Federal Work Study Programs
- Passing of legislation to ensure individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are permanently protected from deportation
- Increased funding for research and development and support of programs that assist in recruiting historically underrepresented populations into STEM fields.
Additionally, members of the delegation expressed interest in a number of specific Western programs, including energy studies, cybersecurity and engineering; Western’s educational programs in Everett, Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas and other locations outside Bellingham; and services to address sexual violence issues on campus. As you may know, we partner with Van Ness Feldman to help us with advocacy in Washington, D.C. We will be working with them during this coming year to identify federal funding opportunities for some of our initiatives and to engage faculty and programs in competing for those opportunities.
To the entire Western community—thank you for all you do to advance inclusive success for our students and increase our impact in Washington through your commitment to, and delivery of, high-quality academic programs and educational experiences.