BOT recap: Board approves tuition cut, ESC fee
The Western Washington University Board of Trustees on Thursday approved Western’s 2016-17 state-funded operating budget, which includes a 15 percent tuition reduction for resident undergraduate students during the upcoming academic year.
The state Legislature, as part of its 2015-2017 two-year biennial operating budget, mandated tuition reductions for state-funded resident undergraduates at public universities, which at Western are being phased in with the 5 percent tuition reduction for the 2015-2016 academic year followed by the additional 15 percent reduction.
Resident undergraduate students represent about 87 percent of all students at Western. The 5 percent tuition reduction last fall amounted to about a $360 reduction in annual tuition for each full-time state-funded resident WWU undergraduate student. The 15 percent tuition reduction this fall will save a resident undergraduate student $1,027 annually while the savings from the combined 5- and 15-percent tuition reductions will be $1,387 annually.
Western’s 2016-17 state operating budget totals $160.272 million. Some highlights include:
- Funding to assist in providing competitive compensation for university employees, a top priority to maintain Western’s excellence. Compensation for faculty and classified employees are determined via union contracts with the university.
- Tuition for non-resident undergraduate, resident graduate, non-resident graduate and MBA students will increase 2.9 percent for 2016-17. Even with the increase those tuition rates still remain lower than most other public universities in the state.
The trustees also approved a student fee increase Friday that will help build and maintain a major expansion of Western’s Ethnic Student Center.
The fee, no more than $30 a quarter to start no earlier than fall 2017, previously won approval from nearly 63 percent of students who voted in the WWU Associated Students’ most recent election. The trustees approved the fee along with other mandatory student fees Friday.
The project will increase the size of the Ethnic Student Center by more than five times, providing greatly enlarged, visible and more accessible space for the Ethnic Student Center and space for multicultural education and services.
Architects out of Portland, Oregon, have developed several preliminary concepts to add space above the Viking Union Multipurpose Room or above the Associated Students Bookstore, with the possibility of connecting lobbies or skybridges.
A key element of the space will be to offer programs and services that encourage the broader university community to increase its knowledge of ethnic identity and increase its appreciation for multiple cultures. The building will be open and accessible to all Western students.
The fee, applicable to students taking six or more credits, would support a bond issue of about $10 million to $12 million, plus an annual amount for operations and maintenance. The university is looking for an additional $5 million to $6 million in funding to bring the total project to $15 million to $18 million.
The university expects to begin design work for the project in fall 2016. The WWU Associated Students has approved an Executive Committee from the Ethnic Student Center to work on the project with the university’s planning team.
In other activity, the board:
- Approved new mandatory student fees: The Health Services Fee will increase by 12.9 percent, the Non-Academic Building Fee by 10.3 percent and the Services and Activities Fee by 4.1 percent. No increases were proposed in fees for Technology, Sustainable Action Fund, Student Recreation, Student Transportation or Legislative Action. Mandatory student fees will total $1,536.75 in 2016-17, an increase of $69 annually.
- Approved fee increases for Academic Programs in Extended Education: The Trustees approved an increase of 4.85 percent for most Extended Education programs, such as Nursing, Elementary Education, Environmental Education and Vehicle Design, to $281 per credit. They also approved smaller increases for some Summer Session courses and workshops.
- Approved the 2017-19 Capital Plan, which includes the 2017-19 Capital Budget Request from state-appropriated funding sources of about $127.2 million. The top priority outlined in the plan is the renovation and addition to the 42-year-old Environmental Studies building. The plan also calls for classroom upgrades, access control security upgrades and moving disAbility Resource Services to the Learning Commons.
- Heard from Rob Fix, executive director of the Port of Bellingham, and Kelli Linville, Mayor of Bellingham, on the current planning and progress of the Waterfront Development Project.
- Approved an Interlocal Agreement with the Port of Poulsbo: Western will lease a slip for the Boathouse associated with the SEA Discovery Center in Poulsbo.
- Recognized LeaAnn Martin, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences upon her retirement. Martin has served at Western for 25 years.
- Officially recognized the service of Bruce and Cyndie Shepard: The Trustees conferred upon Bruce Shepard the title of President Emeritus and called out Cyndie Shepard’s leadership building Compass 2 Campus.
- Elected new leadership for the board: Board President Karen Lee passed the gavel to Trustee Sue Sharpe. Trustee Chase Franklin will serve as Vice Chair and Trustee John Meyer will be Secretary.