On Tuesday, June 18, the Washington State Economic & Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its quarterly update of General Fund-State (GFS) revenues. Compared with the March forecast, expected GFS revenues are up $110 million for the current biennium (2011-13) and $121 million for the next biennium (2013-15), meaning legislators have an additional $231 million to factor into their budget negotiations.
While these changes are positive, they represent very minor adjustments. Under the updated forecast, the state is expected to take in $30.65 billion in the current biennium and $32.66 billion in the next, thus the increases represent adjustments of less than 0.5 percent each.
Most of the positive variance came from increases in forecasted housing construction, taxable real estate activity, and Revenue Act taxes. Real estate excise taxes came in $34 million (34 percent) higher than forecasted and Revenue Act taxes came in $54 million (2 percent) higher—exceeding the January 2008 pre-recession peak. Lower than expected inflation and employment worked against these gains, but weren’t enough to negate them. Although Washington employment has been slowly increasing in most sectors (especially construction), aerospace and government employment are in decline.
It is important to note that much uncertainty surrounds the council’s 2013-15 baseline forecast due to the Federal sequester, Europe’s recession, and China’s slowing economic growth. The ERFC gives its baseline a 50 percent probability and its optimistic and pessimistic alternative forecasts 20 percent and 30 percent respectively. The optimistic forecast is $2.5 billion above the baseline and the pessimistic forecast is $2.5 billion below.
In addition, it should be noted that, like the March forecast, the June update did not assume any revenue from taxable marijuana sales as the Federal Government’s response to Initiative 502 is still unclear.
Some state lawmakers are optimistic that the new forecast will expedite their budget negotiations; however, the two sides’ have a ways to go before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th (12 days from now). “We’ll get closer as a result of this,” said Representative Ross Hunter during a press conference Tuesday morning.
On Saturday, the Senate released a revised budget proposal, which closely resembles the budget they passed in April. For the UW, the two budgets differ in just a few ways:
- Unlike the original Senate budget, the revised budget does not include a $12.5M transfer away from the UW Hospital Account;
- The revised budget does not cut the UW by $3.2M for “administrative efficiencies” that were assumed in the original budget; but
- Compared to the original proposal, the revised budget provides the UW with $3.2M less in new funding.
The latter two changes essentially nullify each other. A few additional changes occurred with regards to state employee health benefits; we are working to interpret the effects and will provide more information as soon as possible.
As mentioned, the revised Senate budget doesn’t stray far from the original. Just like the Senate’s original proposal, its revised budget:
- Provides the UW with $479.6M (General Fund and Education Legacy Trust funds) for the 2013-15 biennium—$10.2M of which is one-time performance-based funding;
- Assumes 0% tuition increases for resident undergraduates;
- Preserves tuition setting authority, but nullifies that authority if either SB 5883 or SB 5941 pass (the bills would require the UW to decrease resident undergraduate tuition rates by 3 percent for the 2013-15 biennium and limit future resident undergrad tuition growth to the rate of inflation); and
- Generates “new” funding for higher education by imposing a 20 percent tuition surcharge on international students at the state’s public colleges and universities.
For more information about the original Senate proposal, please see the full OPB brief.
A student journalist and two newspapers are filing lawsuits challenging Louisiana State University (LSU) for choosing a new president in a closed search process. LSU’s presidential search committee released just one finalist, F. King Alexander (the current president of California State University at Long Beach) for consideration. The suits claim that the closed search denied the public the right to participate in the search and violated the state’s public-records laws, which guarantee open access to public documents. The plaintiffs claim the list of candidates for a university president position should be open to the public under Louisiana’s Public Records Act.
Concern over closed searches has been mounting elsewhere, as well. While many states have laws that guarantee access to public records, others allow universities to withhold information on candidates until a certain point in the process. Universities argue that closed searches are necessary because many prestigious applicants are currently presidents of other institutions and would be uncomfortable with publically acknowledging their candidacy, for fear of retribution or embarrassment if they do not land the job. Advocates of open searches say that students and faculty have a right to be informed about the process and will be more confident in the eventual choice if they see all of the options upfront.
Washington is currently considering amending its own public records law with HB 1298. The bill would require the “applications of finalists applying for the highest management position in an agency”, such as a university president, to be released to the public. The information would need to be provided before the agency could make its hiring decision. Until now, applications for public employment were exempt from public disclosure under Washington law. The bill passed unanimously out of the House and is currently being considered in the Senate.
To read more about the Louisiana case, check out the Chronicle’s article. To read HB 1298, please follow this link.
House Ways & Means Chair Ross Hunter released a revised House budget proposal today. The proposal represents Democrats’ updated negotiating position as budget discussions intensify in the last few weeks of the current biennium. We expect the revised House chair budget to pass the floor later this week, after which leaders of both parties and chambers will continue their budget negotiations. It is likely that the UW will not have a clear sense of its actual anticipated state funding level until the end of June.
The revised House budget provides approximately $5 million less for the UW than the previous House budget. In addition, the revised House budget assumes tuition increases of only 3 percent per year for resident undergraduates, compared to 5 percent per year in the House engrossed budget. Thus, even less revenue is available.
Additional differences between the revised House budget and the House engrossed budget:
- Clean Energy Institute Proviso – Unlike the previous House budget, which allocated $12 million of the UW’s general fund for the creation and staffing of a Clean Energy Institute, the revised budget only directs $9 million to that purpose.
- Center on Ocean Acidification – Identical to the budgets of Governor Inslee and the Senate, the House now provides $1.82 million for a new Center on Ocean Acidification.
- Forestry Program – The revised House budget states that the UW shall establish a Forestry Program “within existing resources.” In the accompanying budget spreadsheet, $450,000 in “tuition resources” is set aside for this purpose.
Some similarities between the two budgets (this list is not exhaustive):
- Computer Science & Engineering Proviso – Both House budgets stipulate that $14.5 million of the $20.8 million in Education Legacy Trust funding appropriated to the UW for the biennium must be reserved for the expansion of computer science and engineering enrollments.
- College of Engineering Proviso – Like the prior House budget, the revised budget appropriates $2 million in new state funds to expand College of Engineering enrollments.
- O&M Funding – Both House budgets provide funding to cover operation and maintenance (O&M) costs for the UW’s new Molecular Engineering building and Balmer Hall.
- Compensation – Both budgets restore the 3 percent salary cut imposed on state agencies in the last biennium. And, as neither budget explicitly extends the current salary freeze for state employees, which is set to expire on June 30 of this year, we assume the freeze will be lifted under both.
Please see the full OPB brief for more information.
A recent update on our state’s progress toward meeting the Washington Roundtable’s Benchmarks for a Better Washington emphasizes the need for legislative action on education, including protecting funding for our public universities, as well as transportation and business costs. The Roundtable – a nonprofit, public policy organization comprised of major, local business executives – created the Benchmarks in 2011 as a means to measure and track Washington’s economic vitality and quality of life. The organization publishes annual updates that examine state-by-state comparative data (primarily from federal sources like the U.S. Dept. of Education); assess Washington’s position in key categories; and highlight opportunities for improvement.
The May 2013 update showed that:
- Washington trails most states in high school graduation rates (ranking 32nd nationally) and bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita (39th nationally).
- Washington’s road condition rankings have dropped from 16th (2012 ranking based on 2008 data) to 29th (2013 ranking based on 2011 data) and our state continues to rank poorly on bridge conditions (41st).
- Washington ranks in the bottom third of states for business tax burden (36th), unemployment insurance tax rates (40th) and workers’ compensation benefits paid (50th).
- However, Washington has held onto its lead in patent generation (5th) and in low commercial and industrial electricity rates (3rd).
The authors argue that Washington must move quickly to improve its education pipeline and align with workforce needs. As 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary training by 2020, they assert, “It is imperative that Washington prioritizes higher education and does a better job of preparing its citizens to succeed.”
In Monday’s edition of CrossCut, Roundtable President, Steve Mullin, urged lawmakers to focus on two key topics during the remaining weeks of session: education and transportation. He specifically called for legislators to ensure our colleges and niversities have the funding they need to develop necessary talent. “Decision time is here,” he wrote, “Education is the driver of prosperity and individual quality of life. Transportation is the backbone of commerce. Both need attention before the 2013 Legislature adjourns.”
To understand how graduates of different majors are faring in the current job market, a new Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report examines unemployment rates and median earnings by degree for “recent college graduates” (ages 22-26 with bachelor’s degrees), “experienced college graduates” (ages 30-54), and “graduate degree holders” (ages 30-54 with at least a master’s degree).
The report, entitled Hard Times 2013, finds that the overall unemployment rate for recent graduates is 7.9 percent, with a range of about 7 to 9 percent depending on degree, excepting some notable outliers. Experienced graduates’ unemployment percentage hovered around 4 to 6 percent, while those with graduate degrees had unemployment rates of just 2 to 4 percent.
The report finds that undergraduate majors do matter—but not in the way we might expect. Some unemployment rates were surprising: a recent graduate majoring in music (8.6 percent) is slightly more likely to find a job than a recent computer science grad (8.7 percent). Recently graduated journalism and general engineering majors have the same unemployment rate, at 7 percent. The highest unemployment rates were among recent grads in information systems (14.7 percent) and architecture (12.8 percent), while the lowest were nursing (4.8 percent), elementary education (5 percent), physical fitness/parks and recreation (5.2 percent), chemistry (5.8 percent), and mathematics (5.9 percent).
Furthermore, earnings differentials between recent graduates’ majors are smaller than we might think: the median salary for most is between 30K and 40K per year. Recent grads in computer science and math make slightly more (45K), while recent engineering grads have the highest earnings (54K).
In many cases, what matters most is not degree field, but degree level and experience. For an experienced college graduate, median earnings typically increase by 20K to 30K, depending on degree. And, in most fields, getting a graduate degree pushes median earnings up an additional 10K to 20K.
Of course, it is important to take these findings with a grain of salt: while field of study and level of experience can certainly influence the likelihood of finding a job and the amount of money a graduate will make, they are not the only factors. The institution attended, year of graduation, location, and much more can significantly impact earnings and unemployment.
To read the full report and see a complete breakdown of earnings and unemployment rates by major and experience level, click here.
Georgia State University (GSU) has launched an innovative pilot program, called the Panther Retention Grant, designed to help retain and graduate GSU students who drop out of school for financial reasons. At Georgia State, a diverse public university with over 24,000 undergraduates, administrators have been struggling to raise the undergraduate 6-year graduation rate, which has been below 50 percent for years. This task is complicated by the diversity of the student body–more than 50 percent of students qualify for federal Pell grants, 60 percent are non-white, and 26 percent are adult learners.
In an effort to better understand the root of its low graduation rates, GSU administrators decided to study the students who were dropped from classes for non-payment. They found that the majority of students who were dropped had good grades and owed less than $1,000 on their tuition bill. The university therefore created the Panther Retention Grant—small grants awarded to students who would otherwise be cut due to nonpayment—to bridge the gap on their tuition bill and give students the opportunity to return to school. The grant comes with strings attached—students must complete three online financial literacy modules and fill out a study skills questionnaire to receive the funding.
GSU has already seen promising results. A few years ago, the university provided small grants to 200 students who had been cut for nonpayment to allow them to return to school. The program not only helped retain those students, it also generated more than $660,000 in otherwise forgone tuition revenue. Last year, GSU expanded the program, awarding $600,000 to more than 700 students. GSU hopes its program will demonstrate the effectiveness of targeted, need-based aid in improving graduation rates, particularly for low-income and minority students.
The University of Washington has long recognized the importance of ensuring affordable education for low-income students with its commitment to Husky Promise. Thirty-three percent of resident undergraduates were eligible for Husky Promise this year, which covers all tuition and fees for resident students who qualify for the Pell Grant or State Need Grant. This contributes to the UW’s remarkable success in retaining and graduating students: 79 percent of entering freshmen graduate from the UW within six years, one of the highest 6-year graduation rates among public universities in the nation.
To read more about Georgia’s program, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle’s article. For more information about the UW’s commitment to affordable education, please see the Husky Promise website.
The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013, a bipartisan federal bill championed by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Rubio (R-FL) and Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Andres (D-NJ) and Hunter (R-CA), was introduced in both chambers of Congress last week. The bill seeks to give students and their families more information about graduation rates, student debt, transfer rates, expected earnings and other important considerations. The goal is to centralize the data so that families can make an informed decision about college.
While there is support for some of the major provisions in the bill, especially for more information on student debt, others are more controversial. The bill would create a federal unit-record database, which some privacy advocates fear could cause confidential data to leak and could enable the government to use data for non-educational purposes. Currently, such databases are banned, which is a major hurdle to the passage of the bill.
Furthermore, while everyone agrees that students should have as much information as possible in making their decisions, colleges are concerned about increasing already onerous reporting requirements. Universities attempting to manage scarce resources are wary of diverting money from the academic mission towards reporting. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report indicating that college experts find existing reporting requirements, such as providing data on enrollment rates, campus safety, and cost of attendance, exceedingly burdensome.
It remains to be seen which, if any, pieces of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act will move forward in the coming weeks. The Office of Federal Relations is tracking this measure. Please follow their blog to receive updates as this and other similar legislation continues through the House and Senate.
The University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU) (along with eight other top universities) have been selected by the National Science Foundation to participate in the Graduate 10K+ program, a $10 million initiative to increase graduation rates in STEM fields, particularly engineering and computer science. The UW will receive $970,000 and WSU will receive $700,000 over five years to fund their projects. The initiative is funded by the Intel Corporation, the GE Foundation and prominent hedge-fund manager and White House adviser Mark Gallogly. While the funding for this program is limited, experts hope it will encourage innovative pilot projects at the selected universities and prompt other companies and individuals to donate.
The UW, in collaboration with WSU, will use its funds to implement an “academic redshirt” program for engineering. The program will enroll low-income high school graduates in a five-year engineering degree program. The first year will focus on solidifying students’ math and science skills. Students will receive individualized advising as well as assistance with acclimating to university workloads. This will help them to be better prepared for the rigors of engineering study at the UW and will remedy learning gaps they might have from high school, hopefully increasing freshman retention and degree completion. After successful completion of the first year, the students will be accepted into one of the UW’s engineering departments. UW and WSU each hope to enroll 32 freshmen in the program, reaching a total of 320 students in five years.
To read more about the Graduate10K+ program, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle’s article or read more about UW’s redshirt program here.
Accenture, a management consulting firm, recently conducted a survey of 2011/2012 college graduates and 2013 pending graduates. The survey focuses on the 2011/2012 graduates’ job search experience, and asks them about their current jobs, salaries, and future education plans. Accenture then contrasts their responses with the employment expectations of pending 2013 graduates. Some interesting findings include:
- While more than 77 percent of 2013 grads expect to receive employer-provided training at their future job, only 48 percent of 2011/2012 grads actually received such training from their employer.
- 50 percent of 2011/2012 grads who are currently unemployed claim that they cannot find a job because companies believe they do not have enough experience, even though 72 percent of 2011/2012 grads participated in an internship during school.
- 41 percent of 2011/2012 graduates believe they are underemployed, meaning their job does not require a college degree.
- Yet despite the still-sluggish economy, 81 percent of 2011/2012 graduates report they found a secure job within 6 months of graduation.
- Of 2011/2012 graduates, 42 percent expect to pursue a graduate degree, but only 18 percent of 2013 grads expect to do so.
Accenture’s report points to the disconnect between employers’ and graduates’ expectations of employment, particularly when it comes to experience and training. The report encourages employers to hire based on potential and a broad skill base, not on specific expertise or perfect qualifications. Furthermore, it recommends that employers provide increased on-the-job training for recent graduates so they can gain necessary experience and job skills to supplement their educational qualifications. Finally, Accenture advises that employers work more closely with educational institutions to help better align their needs with university curriculums, and to provide more internship opportunities for students.
To read the full report, click here, or check out this summary from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
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