Governor Chris Gregoire on Wednesday signed a supplemental state operating budget that keeps higher education funding at close to the level appropriated in the original 2011-13 biennial budget. While that is good news for many in higher education, the news is tempered by the fact that appropriations are still about 26 percent less than they were in 2007-09.
Overall, the supplemental operating budget reduces state spending in the current biennium to $31.1 billion—a $1.1 billion reduction from the budget approved last year.
For higher education, budget cuts since the recession began in 2008 have led to a dramatic shift away from state funding and toward a heavier reliance on tuition to pay the bills at public colleges and universities. Tuition now provides nearly 64 percent of instructional program spending at public baccalaureate institutions, and 35 percent at community and technical colleges. In contrast, tuition in 2007-09 accounted for only about a third of revenue at baccalaureates, and a little over a quarter at community and technical colleges.
Despite the changes the recession has brought in higher education funding, many college and university leaders were relieved that additional reductions were not required this year as a result of the need to further trim state spending.
State funding for public institutions is now about 1 percent less than it was when the initial 2011-13 budget was approved last year. Overall, higher education funding is about .5 percent less. These changes compare to a 6 percent decrease in human services funding and a 1 percent reduction in K-12.
The new supplemental budget signed into law Wednesday assumes $120 million in savings resulting from agencies spending less than their appropriations after the 2012 reductions, a statement from the Governor said. These savings come on top of $478 million in spending cuts, fund transfers and new revenue approved by the Legislature during the December 2011 special session.