University officials warn of future enrollment caps

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) -- Officials at Washington's two biggest universities say they may have to cap enrollment unless they get an increase in state funding.

''We cannot take more students no matter how much more the demand is unless (the Legislature) improves state-appropriated funding,'' University of Washington President Richard McCormick told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

McCormick and Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins argue limiting enrollment is needed to protect the quality of education on their campuses.

''It's a lot easier to rebuild quantity than it is quality,'' Rawlins said. ''We can no longer add new students without resources.''

State schools have accepted thousands more students than the state is funding, said Marc Gaspard, executive director of the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The state's four-year colleges are ''overenrolled'' by 3,500 students, Gaspard said, while community colleges have nearly 9,000 more full-time students than the state funds.

Seattle Central Community College is overenrolled by about 300 full-time students. At Bellevue Community College, there are about 700 more full-time students enrolled than the state funds.

Gaspard attributes much of the increase in enrollment to a growing number of college-age people. The Higher Education Coordinating board predicts the number of students leaving high school in Washington state by 2008 will be 64,921, about 4,000 more than the number of 2001 graduates.

College officials say the state's funding shortage is preventing them from competing with peer institutions throughout the country. It also places them at a disadvantage for hiring and retaining quality teachers.

The state's student funding is 21 percent less -- a decrease of $92 million per year -- than what other states give universities of similar size and programs, McCormick said.

UW is receiving $330 million from the state this year and is asking for an additional $60 million over two years.

WSU is asking for a total of $53.6 million to retain enrollment numbers and make up for a loss in out-of-state students. It's request for core funding for 2003-2005 is nearly $450 million, said Karl Boehmke, director of budgeting and planning.

''We want to prevent enrolling fewer students in the future, but that is what we will be forced to do if we don't get adequate funding,'' Boehmke said.

Whether the requests will be fulfilled remains uncertain.

''I want to do more,'' Gov. Gary Locke said Wednesday. ''But any new money we provide for higher education must produce specific results. In these tight budget times, we need to get more for our money.''

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