Press Release February 10, 2011 Pullman, Washington
The WSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WSU-AAUP) believes that a discussion of available university finances should be the next step in budget planning. In articles in the Daily News (1/20/11) and Daily Evergreen (1/25/11), President Elson Floyd and Executive Director of Planning and Budget Joan King presented views about the university’s financial status that seem inconsistent with the university’s published financial statements. The Administration’s assertions suggest that, since state allocations have decreased in the last two years, WSU is in severe financial crisis. However, the most recent financial statements suggest that the rhetoric of financial crisis may be misleading. In fact, these financial statements seem to allude to a surprisingly healthy fiscal state within the university.
The newly posted 2010 Financial Statement http://www.wsu.edu/genacct/finstat.htm reinforces WSU-AAUP’s previous assertion that overall revenue streams into the university are increasing. Although the state’s allocation to the university has decreased from 27% of total university revenues to 23% in the past 2-3 years, this decrease has been offset by increasing revenue, including tuition raises of 14% for the last two years, a period characterized by the highest student enrollment in WSU’s history. The university actually had total net assets increase by more than $70 million in each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009, and by more than $39 million in fiscal year 2010.
The recent financial statements also appear to indicate reserves that could be used to avert program reductions and faculty/staff eliminations. Specifically, unrestricted net assets plus restricted expendable net assets totaled $144 million at the end of FY 2009 and rose to $165 million at the end of FY 2010. Unrestricted assets alone are currently in excess of $80 million. Restricted expendable net assets represent soft or non-contractual commitments for future projects. However, our understanding is that, generally, both of these categories of assets can be spent freely at the discretion of the Board of Regents.
The relationship between WSU’s financial status and budget discussions needs clarification. The Administration has sent mixed messages about the assets, whether they “can not” or “should not” be spent for certain purposes. Similarly, terms such as “targeting” of expenditures need clarification – targeting by whom, and for what? It is unclear how and when the administration’s fiscal decisions are limited by law and how and when they are limited by administrative priorities, which can change.
The WSU-AAUP Chapter’s goals are to broaden participation of the faculty in discussions of the budget and to include consideration of the overall financial health of the university in budgetary discussions and decisions, especially those that impact university instruction, curricula, academic organization, and employment. In the interest of shared governance, transparency of information, and fiduciary responsibility, the first step to clarify the financial state of the university, especially in light of the current fiscal reserves, should be an administration-sponsored, open forum.
Contact: Rich Alldredge, WSU-AAUP Member and Past President
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