Board of Regents meets for first time in 2015

Constance Rice, Jeremy Jaech, and UW President Michael Young listen to Bill Ayers speak at the January Board of Regents meeting. The meeting focsed on current economics, legislative and budget updates, approved renovations plans, and the CSE expansion.  (Photo by Zezhou Jing.)

The Board of Regents meeting Thursday afternoon addressed myriad issues, but the biggest decision may have been made before the main meeting.

Hours before the regents met, the board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee had their own meeting, in which they discussed the UW’s own Internal Lending Program (ILP) interest rate. The ILP is the organization through which the UW received their loans, rather than going to outside marketers. The ILP is distinct because its interest rate doesn’t fluctuate but instead remains at a set rate, which is established in January each year. This can be beneficial to the UW when interest rates are high or are predicted to rise, but also damaging when interest rates drop.

Via The Daily

The committee’s final decision was in favor of lowering the ILP interest rate from 5.5 to 4.75 percent for 2015. When they presented their recommendation to the board, regents listened, ultimately approving the motion.

According to ASUW president Christina Xiao, the plans to both rebuild and renovate the older campus dorms have been finalized. As a result of the lowered ILP interest rate, HFS will now save $2 million. HFS has not yet announced how it will use the funds.

During the meeting, the regents approved the Academic and Student Affairs Committee’s recommendations. This list included renovations of Denny Hall and a reduction of the initial project budget, a doubling of the degree output in the Computer Science and Engineering department, and funds to update the UW Medical Center’s main entrance. The board also decided to reorganize the Department of Romance Languages.

Another topic discussed was concerns over upcoming dorm renovations and rebuilding.

“A lot of students have expressed concern over affordability in Housing and Food Services,” said Xiao, citing a large number of emails from students.

Despite those concerns, UW President Michael Young was excited to announce there were 36,000 applications this fall, a 17 percent increase over last year.

“It’s a great time to be a Husky,” Young said.

Young noted that the UW Seattle campus enrolled a record number of African-American students last fall.

Paul Umbach, president and founder of Tripp Umbach, the organization that calculates the UW’s annual economic impact, reported the details of the most recent study. According to Umbach, the UW contributed $12.5 billion per year to the state’s economy and was the third largest non-federal employer in Washington.

“[The UW is the] top one or two in most of the licenses and business start-ups of any university in the U.S.,” Umbach said.

Alice Popejoy, president of Graduate and Professional Student Senate , argued against the potential usage of graduate tuition to make up for decreased revenue that would result from a proposed tuition freeze.

“It often doesn’t get talked about,” Popejoy said. “We just want to make sure that graduates don’t end up footing the bill for [the freeze].”

Sarah Hall, the UW’s Assistant Vice Provost of Planning and Budgeting, said finalizing legislation regarding tuition will take an estimated 250 or more days to enact, given that both state legislators and the board have yet to finalize their decisions.

Despite the extended timeline, the board still has concerns regarding a proposed compensation increase for faculty and staff on top of a potential tuition freeze, Hall said. This means there is a possibility the UW will lose money in two whole new ways, and all this while the state itself steps back from funding higher education.

Worrying about money resonates not only with the board, but also with students, and the two groups don’t always agree. For this reason, ASUW is providing students an opportunity to point out any issues they feel are not being addressed or are important to them, Xiao said. Students can express these issues with the hashtag #ASUWAnswers on Twitter.

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