The Seattle Department of Planning & Development published its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the University District Urban Design Framework. This analysis sets the stage for new zoning for the area of the U District west of 15th Ave. NE to I-5 and from Ravenna to Portage Bay. Please see the FEIS notice for more information.
Posted by Corrin Sullivan, Intern at the Office of Planning & Budget and Educational Policy student through the month of July 2014. My focus is on higher education access and policy. I look forward to sharing newsworthy events in the higher ed world with you.
Let’s start with a quick summary of two articles from this past week in higher ed news.
Selected California Community Colleges May Soon Offer a Baccalaureate Degree
The California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education approved Senate Bill 850 (SB850) this past week, which launches a pilot program offering fifteen community colleges the opportunity to offer a four-year degree program as soon as January 1, 2015. The Community College Board of Governors and chancellor, in consultation with the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems, will consider a variety of colleges and select fifteen districts based on four-year degree proposals that meet a variety of criteria; most notably, degrees not available at any of California’s four-year schools and that address the state’s unmet workforce needs. Although the UC system has yet to comment on SB850, California’s Community College Chancellor, Brice Harris, commends the Assembly Committee’s approval of legislation stating that it has the potential to broaden higher educational access and offer more job training opportunities for Californians.
North Dakota Board of Higher Education Unanimously Approves Budget Requesting System-Wide Tuition Freeze
The North Dakota Board of Higher Education recently approved its biennium budget request, which asks for an approximate 14 percent increase in funding in exchange for freezing tuition rates among its eleven colleges and universities for the coming biennium (2015-17). Based on a new funding formula instituted in the 2013 legislative session that relies largely on credit-hour completion, the budget’s $774 base request reflects a $94 million dollar increase from the previous year’s request. The $94 million dollar increase includes a $49 million dollar request to cover operating costs associated with additional credits taken at the state’s colleges and universities. In addition to the $94 million base increase, the board has also requested $9.5 million dollars to cover sums “students would have to cover without a freeze,” compounded with several smaller requests to meet institutional equipment and staffing needs. The Board states that they will freeze tuition rates at all colleges and universities from 2015 through 2017 if and only if, the legislature agrees to fully fund the base budget and increase employee salaries and benefits. Noting affordability as an issue in declining student enrollment numbers, the freeze aims to decrease tuition so that rates are competitive with the state’s regional counterparts.
While the Board has frozen tuition rates at the state’s two-year schools for four of the past six years, this request to freeze tuition for all North Dakota higher education institutions is unprecedented. The budget is before Governor Jack Dalrymple, pending recommendations, prior to advancing to the state’s legislature.
The University of Washington (UW) plans to convert a small section of the UDistrict into a “startup hub” that will help connect UW research activity with the entrepreneurial talent who can help commercialize it. The effort will begin with just one floor of Condon Hall – the old law school, which currently houses departments displaced by other campus construction – but will expand if there is demand. The ground floor will be transformed into an open meeting area, or “mixing chamber,” where University-based entrepreneurs can connect and collaborate with the startup community, including startups that don’t necessarily have a connection to the UW. The third floor may eventually be converted into space for startups. So far, TechStars, Founder’s Co-op, and UP Global (formerly Startup Weekend) are considering taking space on the second floor starting next July.
The Office of Planning & Budgeting and the Office of the University Architect are working on this and other UDistrict planning efforts. To read more about this project, see the article by GeekWire. For more information about UDistrict planning as a whole, see the recent Seattle Times article and visit the U District Livability Partnership website.
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.
On Wednesday, March 20, the Washington State Economic & Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its quarterly update of State General Fund Revenues. Revenue from an anticipated increase in Washington housing permits and real estate excise tax receipts is expected to offset higher federal tax rates and spending cuts than were previously assumed. Overall, revenue projections for both the 2011-13 and 2013-15 biennia remain relatively stable, with a slight net gain of about $40 million across the two biennia. However, this net gain is negated by the roughly $300 million in additional Medicaid caseload costs. The state and its lawmakers now face a $1.3 billion deficit along with court-mandated funding for K-12 education, which could cost another $1 billion. Their upcoming budget proposals will have to reconcile these demands on the state purse.
We anticipate that the Senate Majority Caucus Coalition will release its operating budget proposal sometime next week, while the House will likely release its budget by early next month. Until that time, any specific impact on the UW cannot be assessed. Please see the full OPB brief for more information.
My name is Julia Martinelli and I am the Student Assistant for the Office of the University Architect within the Office of Planning and Budgeting. I am currently a Sophomore at the University of Washington and I am planning on majoring in Architecture with a minor in Urban Ecological Design and Italian. Within my position I will be writing about events, updates, and news regarding the planning and architecture.
Currently, the University District is preparing to undergo multiple changes in the upcoming years. In an effort to guide these changes, a group of residents, businesses, social service providers, the U District Chamber, City of Seattle, and University of Washington has come together to create The University District Livability Partnership. The University District Livability Partnership (UDLP) is a four-year strategic initiative that is working towards transforming the University District into a sustainable, walkable community. The vision of the UDLP for the University District is to have a vibrant and innovative district of entrepreneurs, major employers, talented workers, and diverse residents. The collaboration of partnerships in the UDLP are preparing to help the University District transition and grow as it experiences many changes in the upcoming years, especially with the emergence of the light rail station on NE 43rd St. and Brooklyn Ave.
Within the UDLP there are four components, which include the Commercial Revitalization Strategic Plan, an Urban Design Framework, U District Next: A Community Conversation and Long-Term Leadership & Partnerships, each of which focuses on different aspects and strategies to reach the final desired goal for the U District. Additional information regarding the different components of the UDLP may be found here.
The UDLP Strategic Plan was formally released on January 31, 2013, at the third and final U District Next: A Community Conversation event. In order to preserve the unique and historical aspects of the University District as well as develop new enhancements that will enrich the already vibrant community, the Strategic Plan has developed five initiatives. The initiatives include organization, economics, marketing, clean & safe, and urban design, each of which has its own specific set of goals and strategies. The goal of the organization initiative is to create long-term leadership capacity and partnerships of effective and diverse voices. Whereas, the economic initiative is striving to create an attractive neighborhood for various startups, large companies, and businesses where they can both flourish and contribute to the community. The marketing initiative wants to both appeal to the current community of the U District as well as reach out and draw in new residents, investors and businesses by advertising the best elements of the neighborhood. The clean & safe initiative wants to develop a safe and clean environment that contains resources that will provide support to everyone. And lastly, the goal of the urban design initiative is to design and create a built environment that fits and reflects the culture of the University District community. All of these initiatives create a group of organized tasks that will contribute to The Strategic Plan’s strategic vision for the future University District. If you would like to read the Strategic Plan, visit the UDLP website found here. If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas about the future of the U District, please go here.
Last week, Moody’s Investors Service issued a negative short-term outlook for the entire sector of higher education based on its conclusion that every traditional revenue source for even the most elite colleges and universities is under pressure. That pressure, according to the report, is the result of nation-wide economic, technological and public opinion shifts, which are largely beyond institutions’ control.
The outlook report, released annually, articulates the fundamental credit conditions that Moody’s expects higher education will face during the next 12 to 18 months. For the last two years, Moody’s gave elite colleges and research universities a stable forecast; but this year, the following factors contributed to a negative outlook for the entire industry:
Struggling Revenue Sources:
- State appropriations are unlikely to increase meaningfully due to weak economic recovery.
- Federal spending on research and student aid could be truncated in response to the nation’s fiscal concerns.
- Tuition revenue continues to be suppressed by low family incomes and public/political pressure to keep prices down.
- Endowment returns are vulnerable to any economic volatility that could stem from federal tax and budget decisions.
- Donations are not expected to increase and could face pressure as Congress evaluates associated tax deductions.
- Financial diversity is no longer helpful as all revenue streams are strained.
- Student debt and loan default rates have increased and thus challenged the perceived value of a degree.
- High school graduates are declining in number.
- Public and political scrutiny of efficiency and degree value could add to institutions’ list of regulatory requirements.
- New technologies such as online learning and MOOCs could provide new revenue opportunities, but could also undermine traditional higher ed models.
Moody’s analysts warn that revenue streams will never rebound to post-2008 levels and leaders in higher education will need to adapt by thinking strategically and adjusting their operations.
But not all is gloom and doom. Although Moody’s gave higher education a negative outlook, most of the country’s top colleges and universities still hold the strong credit rankings. The UW, for one, continues to maintain a Aaa credit rating—the highest offered by Moody’s. Additionally, the report stressed that the intrinsic value of and demand for higher education remains stable.
Staff from OPB in partnership with staff from Regional and Community Relations are participating in a community-wide effort known as the University District Livability Partnership (UDLP) – a four-year strategic initiative to encourage investment for a vibrant, walkable University District Community. The UDLP involves University District residents, business, social service providers, congregations, the Greater University Chamber of Commerce, University of Washington and City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Department of Planning & Development, Police Department and Department of Neighborhoods. Additional information regarding the UDLP may be found here.
The partnership includes four companion projects: a commercial revitalization plan, urban design framework, community conversations, and long-term leadership. U District Next: A Community Conversation is a series of events designed to bring local and national voices to the U District to provide perspectives of experiences that may be relevant to the future possibilities in the U District. The discussions are structured such that participants will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. The first event is to take place on October 11th at 5:30 PM. The event is a walk and talk tour of the University District focused on the pedestrain experience. For additional information, please go here. To learn about future events or to participate through the web visit UDNext.com.
New OPB Brief on University of Washington Seattle Campus Planning Initiatives.
The Office of Planning and Budgeting (OPB) coordinates and oversees physical campus planning initiatives for the UW’s campuses. OPB is currently engaging partners and experts across the Seattle campus in several new planning initiatives, which are highlighted in this brief. The focus ranges significantly, but current initiatives include projecting future needs (e.g. precinct planning), systems planning (e.g. way finding and signage), master plans for sub-areas and features (e.g. Pend Oreille entrance and North Campus housing), campus-wide plans (e.g. Campus Master Plan), as well as participating in local community planning (e.g. University District planning).
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