A Message from President Purce
Budget Impacts, Enduring Values, What You Can Do
As the budget changes enacted in the most recent legislative session begin to take effect, and we prepare for more challenges in the coming months—including the prospects of further deep cuts, additional tuition increases and reductions in state financial aid—I wanted to give you a sense of how these developments are affecting The Evergreen State College and what you can do to influence the current and future impact on students.
As you may know, state support for Evergreen—and public baccalaureate education across the state—has declined dramatically over the last few years. Our state operating funding has been cut in half, the proportion of state funding to tuition funding has shifted from 65/35 to 35/65, and tuition has increased nearly 70 percent while still leaving a significant funding gap. This has put a heavy burden on the Evergreen community, with significantly higher tuition hitting students and families particularly hard.
Given Evergreen’s longstanding concern for access to higher education, this is a troubling development and we have been working to address it in several ways.
Even though the legislature allowed the college to raise tuition beyond the levels included in the biennial budget (14 percent per year), we did not. We have also paid close attention to leveraging all available state and federal financial aid for our students and we are greatly expanding our efforts to generate additional scholarship support from private sources through The Evergreen State College Foundation.
This summer, we were especially pleased to receive our largest single private grant ever, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $3 million grant will establish new scholarships that help students in need who are at risk of dropping out of school (including a $1.5 million matching fund to encourage and leverage contributions from other donors); deliver new student retention initiatives throughout the college; and extend our capacity for working with supporters and alumni as we build new scholarship funds. While this grant is substantial, and is a step in the right direction, it cannot come close to offsetting the impacts of steep tuition increases or the dramatic drop in state support for public higher education.
Reductions in state funding have had a definite impact. At Evergreen, we have reduced support services, eliminated more than 60 positions—so far almost exclusively outside the classroom, to protect the student experience as much as possible—implemented voluntary staff furloughs, and worked to stretch more value out of fewer resources.
While cuts have been necessary, we are also making strategic investments to preserve or even strengthen key aspects of the college to help us succeed in this new environment. For example, we have invested in additional faculty to keep pace with student enrollment, and we have made targeted improvements in technology, facilities and campus safety.
Our work remains grounded in a commitment to the values that make an Evergreen education truly distinctive, transformative and relevant: interdisciplinary teaching and learning, small class sizes and engaged learning communities, extraordinary flexibility to meet student needs and help them achieve their goals, and an emphasis on linking theory to practice. Our national reputation for quality, value and sustainability attests to the fruits of that commitment.
Recognizing that there will be more challenges ahead, there are three things you can do to help Evergreen’s students today and into the future:
- As the state faces further budget reductions, you can share your views about drastic cuts to higher education, steep tuition increases and prospects for new revenue with your legislators.
- You can consider a contribution to The Evergreen State College Foundation to support students, including a gift to the new Gates scholarships.
- You can continue to encourage people you know that are headed to college to put Evergreen on their list for consideration, learn more about the college and visit the campus to evaluate the college on a first-hand basis before making a choice.
As we enter a year of celebration honoring Evergreen’s first students and graduates (1971-72) and 40 years of extraordinary alumni, faculty and student success, we are focused on the future as well. Guided by the spirit of creativity and innovation on which the college was founded, and with your continued support, Evergreen can prosper despite the challenges, and serve students for another 40 years and beyond.
Thomas L. “Les” Purce