Office of Planning and Budgeting

The Lincoln Project, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ study of public research universities (PRUs), has recently come out with its fifth and final report, which examines the challenges facing PRUs and recommends strategies for addressing them. The recommendations are threefold:

  1. Address Financial Challenges:

The sharp reduction in state funding for PRUs—down 30 percent since the year 2000—has been particularly harmful because it has forced public universities to raise tuition. This directly affects access for low-income students—one of the key responsibilities of public higher education. For this reason, the authors highlight financial aid for low-income, in-state undergraduate students as the most important program that institutions can provide. The UW’s Husky Promise program, which provides free tuition to resident undergraduates with financial need, is an example of this type of financial aid.

To cope with diminished state funding, the report also recommends:

  • Regional alliances with other PRUs, allowing the schools to combine programs;
  • Focusing fundraising on unrestricted donations, allowing universities to put the money towards core educational programs;
  • State-led creation of PRU long-term funding plans, allowing universities to more securely plan for their future; and
  • Advocating for additional federal research support.
  1. Form Public-Private Partnerships:

In the authors’ view, there is a natural alliance between PRUs and businesses. PRUs are critical to the business community: they educate workers and provide research upon which businesses and corporations build their enterprises. Universities also rely on businesses for funding assistance and for employment opportunities for their graduates. The report recommends that businesses provide research funds, well-paid internships, scholarships, and other support mechanisms for universities and their students. Universities, in turn, should provide easier access to their research and actively work towards partnering with businesses. The UW has a variety of public-private partnerships, including its Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a partnership with Microsoft and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

  1. Serve Students:
  • Simplify financial aid: Filling out a FAFSA is a complicated process which can impede access to higher education. Simplifying the loan application procedure would help ensure that a larger proportion of students who are interested in higher education get access to the funds they need to pursue their goals.
  • Track student performance: Thanks to improved data analysis tools, universities have an enhanced ability to help students graduate. The report highlights Georgia State University (GSU) as a particularly successful example. GSU uses an algorithm to pinpoint students at risk of failing or dropping out, enabling the university’s advising services to intervene on a one-to-one basis. According to the report, these interventions have increased graduation rates by 20 percent, reduced time to graduation, and eliminated graduation rate differences between racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
  • Improve transfer pathways: The report recommends that four-year institutions work with community colleges to simplify the transfer procedure. Doing so can make higher education more affordable and accessible and can help transfer students graduate with a four-year degree on time and with as little debt as possible.

Two overarching themes of the Lincoln Project’s report are partnerships and accessibility. Public universities will need both in order to continue fulfilling their dual missions of conducting top-level research and providing high-quality, affordable higher education.

On April 18, Governor Inslee signed the final compromise operating budget after vetoing several sections. One of the Governor’s vetoes reversed a plan to convert activities conducted by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) into a “central service.” As a result of the veto, the UW will no longer be billed approximately $2.03 million from tuition operating fee revenue to cover those services.

Our updated brief is here. Please contact Jed Bradley or Becka Johnson Poppe if you have any questions.

The rising costs of college are a popular subject for everyone from presidential candidates to media outlets. Parents and students blanche as published tuition prices climb ever higher. But the published price – often referred to as the “sticker price” for colleges – offers a misleading picture of the cost of higher education. OPB has updated our brief to reflect the newest available data on published price vs. net price. Highlights include:

  • Sector-wide data on increases in published price and net price for public and private four-year colleges
  • A description of how declining state investment in higher education has spurred tuition increases
  • A table of the top 25 research universities’ net price for resident undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid

Our updated brief is accessible here.