By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

News: Central’s expense savings and tuition increases accumulates over $61 million

BY PATIENCE COLLIER, Assistant News Editor

In the past six years, Central’s administration has spent less each year than they have budgeted for expenses. The difference between the assets and expenses has accumulated over the years into a fund that has nearly doubled in size since 2007 and is now over $61 million.

The 2012 budget enacted a 14 percent tuition increase. The majority of Central’s revenue has come from tuition and fees, including three 14 percent raises in tuition in the past three years.

Central has enacted the tuition increases in order to cover the state budget cuts to education, according to Central’s Public Affairs Director Linda Schactler, who said that when the legislature made the more drastic cuts to Central’s budget, they approved tuition increases in order to cover the costs to the university.

An anonymous email sent to the Board of Trustees raised this issue as a problem with the senior management and university administration.

In 2012, Central’s cash and cash-equivalent assets, or money available that year, was double the amount necessary to pay that year’s bills, leaving the university with $34.4 million more than the budgeted expenses for the year.

“In short, our students were asked to pay more and received absolutely nothing for their increased payment,” the email said.

Central’s BOT said in their reply to the anonymous email that the unrestricted net assets could be thought of as a savings account, put away for a major expense, but that the majority of the funding was committed.

The reason this money does not constitute a major or immediate boost for Central’s finances, according to Schactler, is the way it has all, or mostly, been committed by the university.

“There are all kinds of things that the state doesn’t pay for,” Schactler said. “We have to figure out how to make those advances ourselves, and that’s all part of the budget process.”

Connie Williams, associate vice president of finance and business auxiliaries, agreed with this approach. She said the accumulation of funds was necessary to maintain university growth.

“As we add to [unrestricted net assets], our plans for growth increase,” Williams said. “We’ve got more plans for growth and projects than we really have assets to provide for.”

According to Bryan Elliott, ASCWU BOD President, an example given to the BOD by President James Gaudino was the possibility of saving against the expense of a new roof for the SURC. Other examples of funding commitments include the conversion of paper systems to digital, and the renovation of residence halls.

Schactler cited Gaudino’s resolution to keep Central from extensively cutting programs and services to students as the reasoning behind the tight budget planning and the tuition raises, explaining the current university budget as an alternative to major layoffs and cutbacks.

However, in the years following the budget cuts, Central has continually ended the year with monetary assets over and above what is needed to pay the current expenses.

This accumulation of assets over the past few years has led to a growing unrestricted assets fund. According to Central’s 2012 financial report, unrestricted net assets are defined as “All other funds available to the university for general and educational obligations, and may be expended for any lawful purpose.”

Despite the university’s claims that the budget has been necessarily tight, and that Central has done what it can to relieve the tuition costs on students and families, Williams admitted that the budget might have been done differently.

This year, Williams says, the university has begun to change some of those budgeting decisions.

This is the first year since 2008, according to Schactler, that funding for Central has not been cut by the legislature, meaning no tuition increase was written into the state budget.

“I would say that it’s very possible that if we had all of the information at the end of the year that we needed at the beginning of the year, that might have changed some of the decisions,” Williams said.

Central’s counterparts have had budget cuts by the state legislature as well, and have had to raise tuition to cover expenses.

In 2012, according to publicly available financial reports, Eastern Washington University had  $30.7 million left in assets after current liabilities, and Western Washington University had  $10.4 million, contrasting with Central’s $34.4 million.

“It’s a delicate balance that most universities follow which is a continued striving not only to improve, but it takes money just to maintain status quo,” Williams said.

The 2012 financial report asserted that the strategic planning and budget development of the university administration and senior management had been important to the growth of the university.

In 2008, the last year of former university president Jerilyn McIntyre’s term, the unrestricted net assets came to $31.7 million. As of the 2012 Financial Report, unrestricted net assets totaled well over $61 million.

Williams said she believed this was a healthy thing for the university.

“I really do not see a problem in having our current assets at the level they are,” Williams said. “I think that shows that we can pay off our current debt easily, no problem.”

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