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WSU Government Relations Uncategorized

State revenue forecast projects decline over next two biennia

The state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly forecast yesterday that projects decreased state tax revenues over the next two biennia and stagnant growth in the current biennium.

The forecast decreased by $483 million for the upcoming 2023–25 biennium and by $541 million for the following 2025–27 biennium.

A slowing housing market, a dip in personal income, and a likely increase in interest rates are among the key causes. The economists responsible for the forecast could not fully account for the recent banking failures’ impact on the state economy, given how recently they occurred. Total revenues, for which legislators can spend, for the upcoming biennium starting July 1 are now projected to be around $65.7 billion. While not disastrous, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said during the Council’s presentation that spending goals would need to be curbed.

This forecast is crucial as it serves as a roadmap for both the Senate and House operating budgets, which are scheduled to be unveiled this and next week – kickstarting final budget deliberations before the legislative session concludes on April 23rd.

Senate committee advances Regent Chilton confirmation

The Senate Higher Education Committee has recommended confirmation of WSU Student regent Reanne Chilton.

Chilton, appearing at a confirmation hearing Friday, received several positive remarks from the committee, with committee Chair Emily Randall noting Chilton’s “history of service.”

Chilton, a fifth-year student in clinical psychology is currently working towards her Ph.D. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU and represented her Coug peers as the president of the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association until 2022.  She was nominated by Governor Inslee to fill the student regent position, which is designated to provide a student perspective on the WSU Board of Regents.

In her testimony Chilton spoke about growing up in Tri-Cities as a first-generation college student, raised by a single mother who inculcated higher education as her pathway and resourcefulness as a tool for survival. Chilton shared her caregiving experience as she supported her mother during her illness while attending graduate school.

“This was possible because I go to WSU – a university where not only am I receiving excellent training as a future psychologist, but also where I’m seen as a whole human being, part of a large ecosystem with important ties to family and community,” Chilton said. “Because of this I’ve had the opportunity to achieve a level of education no one in my family has before while also getting to be with my mom in her final months.”

The committee recommended approval on a unanimous vote, sending the confirmation to the full Senate for consideration. You can view Regent Chilton’s confirmation hearing below.

Actions on Duration of Stay

We recognize many of you are monitoring the recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making out on the Duration of Stay for international students.

The deadline for comments was October 26th and we know that WSU sent comments in via International Programs. As background there are many letters circulating form Capitol Hill signed by the Washington Delegation and sent to the Administration on this proposed rule:

Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) was joined by 19 other GOP members of the House in a sign-on letter to express concerns with the Department of Homeland Security’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking on “Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors, and Representatives of Foreign Information Media.” The letter says that the proposed rule would “be detrimental to the United States’ ability to attract the best and brightest international students and exchange visitors from around the world.”  The rule would modify the department’s longstanding duration of status policy to a fixed duration policy which would allow F, and J, and I visa holders two or four years to complete their degree, depending on several factors. Under the proposal, a student who needs additional time to complete their degree would need to petition DHS for an extension of stay.

The final letter was signed by twenty Republicans including Washington’s Republican members Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Dan Newhouse. The strategy behind this was to have the Administration hear from Members of their own party with concerns on these changes.  We led the efforts with the office but worked with APLU who coordinated the association work and with UW on this letter.

PAC12 also sent a letter expanding on how the proposed rule would impact international student athletes. They note the proposed rule is “deeply flawed and would undermine the ability of colleges and universities to recruit the best students from around the world”. They also expanded on the financial implications of the ruling for the students and highlighted how the uncertainty would detrimentally impact athlete’s choices before strongly opposing it.

Democrats Rep Debbie Dingell (MI) & Rep Mark Pocan (WI) also sent a letter signed by 106 Democrats expressing concern as the proposed rule “would arbitrarily limit international student visa lengths and place additional restrictions on student visas based on an individual’s country of origin.” They continued to state the proposed rule would increase “burdens on students and universities, further disincentivizing prospective international students from attending U.S. institutions of higher education” They further expanded on the value that international students bring to the US and further expand on the detrimental effect of the proposed rule.

Senator Murray also sent a letter late in October with 28 other Senators with extensive comments on this proposed rule dissecting the language of the mandate and noting five major areas of concern with the proposed rule;

1 – Massive disruption for the healthcare workforce (J-1 physicians)

2 – It would devastate institutions of higher education’s ability to serve

3 – Limiting without adequate rationale

4 – Unnecessary given the current reporting systems

5 – It would further strain United States Citizenship and Immigration resources.

House Democrats sent a letter early in October including Congressman Smith, Congresswoman DelBene, Congresswoman Jayapal and Congressman Derek Kilmer with extensive comments on this proposed rule.


Governor signs WSU-supported animal research bill

Gov. Jay Inslee this afternoon signed into law a bill requiring higher education institutions that use dogs and cats for research offer the animals up for adoption before considering euthanasia.

Senate Bill 5212 was passed out of both the Senate and the House unanimously, with stakeholder support from the University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. WSU has used cats and dogs in research projects related to pharmacology, nutrition, orthopedics, arthritis and cancer therapy, helping to improve overall animal health and comfort.

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, who serves as Chair on the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee and operates his own dog boarding business in South Snohomish County.

Under the bill, any animal made available for adoption would first be assessed by a university’s attending veterinarian to determine suitability for adoption. The bill does not preclude universities from using research animals for other educational uses before making them available for adoption.

Sen. Palumbo, Zoey, and Gov. Inslee

WSU presents medical school progress report to Senate committee

Members of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee held a work session on meeting workforce demands in Washington State’s Health Care Industry this week and called WSU forward to present its case for how the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is addressing this major issue. Since the medical school’s authorization in 2015, the university’s mission has been to provide more physicians in core disciplines to rural and underserved areas of Washington. According to Ken Roberts, Vice Dean of Academic and Community Partnerships at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the university is seeking to address this demand by focusing on the admissions process and curriculum structure to influence the outcomes of their mission goals.

By creating a targeted approach to their admissions process the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine has seen the formulation of a student body that positively represents the communities which the university seeks to serve. The combined first two classes of the medical school have included a student demographic which are:

  • 28% first generation college students
  • 31% students of color
  • 38% low-income students
  • 58% women
  • 44% over the age of 25 (higher than average and indicating a slightly more mature student body)
  • from 60 Washington communities
  • 100% are Washingtonians

“You don’t have out-of-state tuition at the medical school,” noted Senator Jeff Holy, “There’s a reason for that.” This is because the University is pulling its medical student pool directly from local communities around Washington State. As Dr. Roberts points out “if you want physicians to go back and practice in areas where it’s needed most, you need students coming into your medical school that represent residents from those places.”

The second focus on curriculum is driven by the selection of core disciplines the university will train students in and also where they will be trained in. The university will anchor student education at its four medical school campuses in Everett, Vancouver, Spokane and the Tri-Cities, before getting students “out into more rural spaces so they have a chance to bond and connect with the communities and medical practices there — and most importantly with the patient population that they are seeing in those places.” Currently the University as 79 clinical affiliation agreements with medical practices across the state – from Forks to Goldendale and from Grand Coulee to Longview.

Additionally, the University continues to raise funds to offset student costs. “I’m happy to report that we’ve raised over $21 million for the medical school that’s helping reduce the cost of education for our students,” says Chris Mulick, Director of State Relations at Washington State University. “Every student so far as has been offered a scholarship, and we have had students who can afford tuition reject the scholarship asking us to repurpose it towards other students who have greater needs. These are the type of students we’re recruiting.”

Check out the video below to watch the full presentation, including more information on WSU’s admission selection process and its curriculum plan.

Federal policies impacting fundamental scientific research update

The Science Coalition Round up for February 5th 2019 provided useful information which may be of interest:

Following the agreement to reopen the federal government through February 15, recent news coverage focused on the residual impacts the partial government shutdown will have on science. News outlets have largely examined the impacts to federal science agencies and the fundamental research they support. Some press have also highlighted the lasting effects on research universities, and the problems created by a lack of access to critical funding and resources over the five-week shutdown. Here is a sampling of top articles from the last few weeks:

Infographic: Science Caught in the Middle of the Shutdown

The federal government shutdown is over, but its affects are still being felt by America’s leading research universities. At least $1.3 billion of fundamental scientific research funding was put on hold at federal agencies such as NSF, USDA, NASA, and others. Even though these agencies are open again, it will take them time to get back up to full speed, halting essential research projects for weeks or even months to come. The below infographic gives a snapshot of how funding instability hurts scientific research and how universities get caught in the middle.

To download the infographic from the TSC please click on: reports and resources page.



House committee briefed on WSU cannabis research

The new chair of WSU’s Committee for Cannabis Research and Outreach appeared before the House Commerce & Gaming Committee today to outline the university’s efforts to study the effects of cannabis consumption.

Initiative 502 carved out funds for the University of Washington and WSU to do such work. Michael McDonell, an associate professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, was recently named to lead research efforts at WSU. You can watch his presentation below.


Legislative committee hears report on cost of medical education

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) met today to receive a presentation from the state Auditor’s Office on its performance audit report determining the costs per student for medical education at the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (ESFCOM) and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The report by the Auditor’s Office highlights the complexity of identifying costs specific to medical education and complications with comparing actual costs to projected costs between two fundamentally very different medical schools at notably opposite stages of development.  WSU’s Chris Mulick, director of state relations; Jim Zimmerman, vice dean for administration, accreditation and finance for ESFCOM; and Ken Roberts, vice dean for academic and community partnerships for ESFCOM provided a public agency response to the report, which you can view below. WSU thanked the Auditor’s Office for considering projected WSU costs at a date in the future by which time the college will have developed economies of scale not possible until enrollment scales up.

The inaugural class of 60 medical students in the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is now in its fourth week of instruction and students have already visited their assigned clinical sites across the state. Learn more about the diversity of the inaugural class here.

Budget agreement funds WSU medical school

Legislative leaders released a 2017-19 operating budget agreement today that provides $10 million to fund 60 first year and 60 second year medical students, fulfilling WSU’s top legislative priority.

Budget proposals previously released by the Governor, Senate and House did just the same. The final budget agreement, coming just hours before the onset of the new biennium, now must be approved by both chambers and signed by the governor before going into effect.

Here are the highlights of the operating budget as it pertains to WSU.

The budget:

  • Provides $10 million for 60 first year and 60 second year students at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine just as all three previous budget proposals did.
  • Provides equivalent funding for three compensation adjustments that are roughly close to 1 percent each over the course of the biennium.
  • Authorizes current law tuition increases of 2.2 percent in the first year and 2.0 percent in the second year of the biennium.
  • Provides funding for the State Need Grant to maintain existing statewide participation, then funds a small expansion of the program to cover an additional 875 students. This reduces the rolls of students who are eligible but unserved to near 23,000.
  • Suspends new I-502 marijuana research funding and maintains existing funding levels.
  • Funds Elk Hoof Disease research in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Provides $606,000 to fund a children’s mental health residency program in Spokane, as prescribed by WSU-supported legislation.
  • Reduces appropriation by $1.6 million, assuming a reduction in graduate student tuition waivers, an effective cut.
  • Provides $500,000 in one time funding for new stormwater research at WSU Puyallup.
  • The budget assumes a new central service charge to the state budget office, effectively a small cut.
  • Half of new maintenance and operations funding to support the new academic building opening in August in Everett will come from WSU building fees rather than new state appropriation, affecting WSU’s capital budget.

Revenue forecast ticks upward

A new forecast of future tax collections has added $79 million in anticipated state revenues for the current two-year budget cycle and another $80 million for the one that begins July 1. That’s a small bump for a state budget that is expected to near $42 billion.

You can read the forecast here and find the press release from the Office of Financial Management here.

That provides a critical piece of information as legislative negotiators work to craft a compromise operating budget to send to the governor. Budgets proposed by the governor, House and Senate all provide $10 million to fund 60 first and second year medical students for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the university’s top legislative priority. The budgets differ on other operating budget priorities relating to STEM degree production, compensation and the State Need Grant.

The Legislature also still needs to write a capital budget. While funding for the design of a new academic building at WSU Tri-Cities and for the predesign of a Life Sciences Building at WSU Vancouver is included in all three budget proposals, they differ on WSU’s top capital budget priorities for funding the construction of the Plant Sciences Building and the start of the Global Animal Health phase II project, both in Pullman.