Washington State University has identified cost-of-living adjustments for faculty, staff and graduate students as its top priority in advance of the 2023 legislative session and has submitted a number of other requests to support high demand degree production and the university’s physical infrastructure. You can find WSU’s 2023 legislative agenda here.
WSU has requested $34.5 million in the state’ 2023-25 biennial operating budget to provide salary increases of 4 percent and 3 percent for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, respectively. This would improve upon the funding formula used to calculate funding needs for higher education institutions. That model relies on an assumption that new tuition revenues will cover part of the costs of compensation enhancements, maintaining health benefits, a higher minimum wage and other such maintenance level costs. All such costs must be covered except the cost-of-living adjustment for faculty, professional staff and graduate students, bearing the full brunt of any funding shortfall. In recent years, actual tuition revenues have not kept pace with state assumptions.
In addition to the cost-of-living adjustment, WSU is requesting $4.4 million to support the College of Nursing’s reaccreditation effort. Until recently, salaries in the College had been at the 25th percentile of peer institutions and 25th percentile among nurses with similar credentials. The university used reserve funds to temporarily cover the cost of salary enhancements to improve that standing to 50th percentile. WSU is asking the state to fund those enhancements on an ongoing basis. Poor salaries has been noted by accreditors during the past two College of Nursing accreditation cycles. Accreditors could limit nursing enrollment at WSU if certain improvements are not made. The request also includes funding for equipment modernization within the college, which offers degrees in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Vancouver.
WSU has further requested $2.3 million in biennial funds to support the creation of a social work program at WSU Tri-Cities and $2.5 million to establish a new public health degree program with an emphasis in infectious disease in Pullman and on behavioral health in Spokane and Vancouver.
In the capital budget — where WSU is prioritizing projects that reduce deferred maintenance —$40 million is requested to match with another $40 million in donor funds to construct an engineering student services building for the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture in Pullman. Another $22 million is requested to begin the process of securing a new Science Building in Pullman by first renovating other buildings to house programming to be moved out of Heald Hall. WSU’s capital request also includes $10 million for the Phase I renovation of the Knott Dairy Center and $8 million to renovate Bustad Hall with simulation space for the College of Veterinary Medicine. In Spokane, WSU is seeking $7 million to design the Spokane Team Health Building, which will provide simulation and clinical research space for the colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy on the space-constrained campus.
The university’s top capital budget request is $40 million in minor works preservation dollars to fund dozens of small maintenance projects, such as roof and boiler replacements, across the WSU system.
WSU submitted these priorities to the state’s Office of Financial Management in September for consideration in the governor’s budget, set to release in mid-December. The Legislature convenes the 105-day 2023 session on Monday, January 9th.