The University of Washington and Washington State University could possibly be in the stock market business once again, this time with funds required to cover their operating expenses. Come this November, if SJR 8223 is approved by Washington voters, then UW and WSU could potentially put around 25% of public funds they are given and invest it in the stocks and bonds of private companies, associations, or corporations. The whole purpose is to generate returns on those investments that could be used for educational purposes like lowering tuition and increasing financial aid for students who really need it.
This sounds pretty risky, especially since UW and WSU have been historically prohibited from doing this by the state constitution. Schools run year-round and a loss in the stock market has an immediately negative impact. The Washington Investment Board (a.k.a. Money Experts) will have the authority on how and where the public money will be invested. By investing in low risk stocks and bonds, these schools could see an increase in revenue.
Due to the crazy amounts of recession in all of our lives (minus the 1 percenters) it’s easy to see that these universities need another way to make money and this will take the form of “safe” gambling by the Washington State Investment Board. Both UW and WSU are adamantly in support of this measure. During a Public Hearing in February, Margaret Shepherd and Chris Mulick, the Directors of State Relations for UW and WSU, both spoke in favor of the bill. They claimed SJR 8223 would provide an alternate avenue of funding other than from tuition and taxes. These types of investment are projected to bring in an extra 10-20 million a year!!! This sounds like a lot of money, huh? Hold your horses hot shot……..
Over the last 3 years, Washington State has cut 5 Billion (that’s right that’s Billion with a capital B) from early learning, K-12, and higher education. More cuts to education were being considered, but were thankfully avoided by making cuts in other parts of the state budget. So those 10-20 million dollars that SJR 8223 are projected on generating through private investment are drops in a bucket compared to the amount that have already been cut from these universities budgets.
In 2000, students paid 28% of education costs through tuition. In 2013, students will be paying 65% of education costs from increased tuition hikes due to the meager amount of funding these schools receive from the state. There’s not enough blood in my system to donate to make up for those expenses!
This measure seems like it’d bring in more revenue, but in the end it’s up to the voters to pass. I know that a lot of students currently paying a ridiculously amount of money to go to school and to those high school students who dream of attending UW and WSU could benefit a bit from this new revenue.
If Washington is really serious about investing in education, the state is going to need more revenue and SJR 8223 is might be a way to do this. But state lawmakers who oversee the budget also need to fund higher education as well as exercise more ways to bring in revenue. Washington’s future prosperity depends on it.