2020-21 Legislative Priorities
CWU's primary goal for the 2021 legislative session will be to minimize reductions to operating budget appropriations. The COVID-19 pandemic plunged Central Washington University into a state of financial exigency when state and county rules drove students from campus. Students provide about 67 percent of all university funds, from housing and dining, to medical services and activities. Specifically, on March 19, 2020, the Kittitas County Health Officer ordered that CWU close all its facilities and direct students who had left for spring break to not return for spring quarter through June 30, 2020. This has led to a projected 50 percent reduction in non-tuition revenue from students, which comprises nearly one half of the entire operating budget.
On March 19, the same day as the Kittitas County Health Order, Central Washington University immediately announced austerity measures that are saving millions of dollars:
- Suspended all travel
- Froze all hiring
- Froze all purchasing
Thanks to CWU’s quick action, CWU is projected to achieve $11.2 million in savings through its own internal decisionmaking and abilities; however, the total loss of revenue is projected to be $16.6 million through June 30. After accounting for federal CARES Act funding of $3.8 million, and savings in the cost of merchandise that was never purchased, CWU still has a remaining deficit of $1.6 million.
The operating budget is in a very precarious position due to this very sudden and severe drop in revenues that, among many things, pay the salaries and benefits for about 1,800 employees and are needed for the $12-million annual bond payments for housing and dining facilities.
CWU Operating Funds Review - Spring Term 2019
Non-Tuition Student Revenue - $32,046,496
State General Funds - $24,457,722
Tuition/S&A Fees - $17,906,605
CWU Operating Funds Review - Spring Term 2020
Non-Tuition Student Revenue - $16,418,979
State General Funds - $21,877,529
Tuition/S&A Fees - $18,772,192
In May 2020, the Office of Financial Management directed all state agencies to devise plans to accommodate a 15-percent reduction in state funding. For CWU the cut would be about $11 million. CWU's plan and others are located on the OFM website.
In any given year, approximately 70 percent of CWU’s operating budget is used to support employees who deliver instruction, advising and tutoring. They support medical and behavioral health outreach and maintain state buildings and grounds. They are the police officers who keep students safe and the accountants who ensure the careful use of state funds.
Students and CWU employees have a massive impact on the economic health of the city of Ellensburg, where about one of every seven jobs is at the university. The annual payroll for this educated workforce supports retail, food, housing, and other businesses. The purchases of employees and the activities of the university also generate sales tax and other revenue that supports local government and the delivery of vital human services. Retailers in the Ellensburg area know that CWU students represent 50 percent of all retail customers. Employees, students, and guests generate more business throughout the year than any other single entity. Camps, conferences, and events hosted by CWU draw more than 50,000 people to restaurants.
Public higher education will play a vital role in Washington’s post-pandemic economic recovery, which has disproportionately impacted individuals with minimal education. According to the Federal Reserve, 39 percent of those employed in February from households earning under $40,000 suffered a job loss in March, while 63 percent of workers with at least a bachelor’s degree worked entirely from home.
In the years immediately following the Great Recession, every job that returned to the economy required some education beyond high school. Most required at least a bachelor’s degree. Universities that specialize in the education of first-generation and under-represented people will be instrumental in preparing Washingtonians to compete in a global and rapidly changing economy.
Biennial Capital Budget
The highest priority in Central Washington University’s 2021-23 Capital Budget Request is $55 million to complete the renovation and construction of a Health Education academic facility. In the 2019-2021 budget, CWU received $5 million to design the project, which would renovate and expand the 60-year-old Nicholson Pavilion. The high-use facility needs modern instructional space in order to accommodate demand for the program that prepares K-12 health and physical education teachers--the largest program in the state of Washington.