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Importance of Philanthropic Investment for UW’s Next 150 Years

November 25, 2011

In just 150 years, the University of Washington has made incredible leaps and strides as a global leader in every respectable industry imaginable. Alumni of UW have patented scientific discoveries ranging from the color television to the NASA space suit, opened successful businesses like Nordstrom and Baskin Robbins, entertained the masses with the founding of Pixar Animation Studios and Wizards of the Coast, and touched the hearts of children everywhere through the creation of loving characters like Beezus, Ramona, and Dennis the Menace [1].

The University of Washington produces global leaders that transform the world by providing its students with tremendous opportunities to learn, engage, and discover. However, these opportunities are soon disappearing because the quality of education has been negatively affected by decreased financial support from the state. As a public university that has historically relied on state funding, UW must now place more emphasis on garnering private support if it wishes to continue educating the bright minds of future Huskies.

With respect to the definition of a public intuition, many people feel that the state should prioritize the needs of its universities. However, given the current budget crisis in today’s economy, the state can no longer expect to meet all of its financial obligations to higher education. Data from the UW Office of Planning and Budgeting has demonstrated a new funding paradigm within the past several decades [2]. In 1990, the average funding received per student was $17,000—the state paid 82% and the student paid 18%. It is estimated that in 2013, the average funding received per student will be approximately $16,800, with the state paying only 30% and the student paying 70%! While the institution struggles with the challenges of decreased state funding, the University of Washington must continue to commit to making higher education accessible to students in years to come.

One of the University of Washington’s few revenue streams that boasts the potential for long-term growth is private support. The demand for new instructional technologies, in addition to increased utility costs, and the need for new student services all contribute to the rising cost of tuition. Moreover, private gifts allow the University of Washington to provide a margin of excellence for its students that cannot be accomplished with state and research funding alone. For instance, private donors contribute to the critical edge of excellence by supporting scholarship opportunities—like the Mary Gates Endowment and the Husky Promise—to assist a diverse array of students in meeting their educational goals. In order to keep tuition affordable for students within the next 150 years and beyond, the university should focus and invest more into private partnerships for the support needed to perpetuate the university’s excellence.

Nobody can predict the future, but it is safe to say that the significance of private support looms larger than it ever has before. The University of Washington’s ability to fulfill its core mission will largely be a function of its ability to generate additional support from the community at large. Tomorrow’s leaders are today’s students at UW, and their education will continue to thrive even more so with philanthropic contributions from corporations, alumni, and friends of the university.




About the Author

Bryan Dosono is a senior studying Informatics, political science, and philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle. He currently directs social media for the Student Philanthropy Education Program and was a past Philanthropy Chair of Lambda Phi Epsilon Fraternity.

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