Operating Budget Overview: 2023-2024

Western's operating budget is a financial plan for our fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30.  This plan authorizes the use of funds for approved activities in alignment with the universities strategic goals and core operating needs. Western's operating budget is primarily funded through the state, student tuition and fees, and auxiliary enterprises.

The 2023-2024 Annual Operating Budget Recommendation was approved by the Board of Trustees at their June 9, 2023 meeting. An overview of the 2023-2024 revenues and new recurring expenses are below. The complete operating budget can be viewed in the Operating Budget Book.

2023-2024 Revenues

Tuition revenues are a result of enrollments and of the tuition rate. The impact of COVID-19 on enrollments is an ongoing challenge that will likely take years to fully surmount; approximately $9 M in tuition revenue on a recurring basis. While there are several positive indicators on enrollment at this time, reduced numbers of returning students will not be offset by growth in first year students.

Our budget recommendation includes a 3.0% tuition rate increase for resident undergraduate students based on the allowable increase for in-state undergraduate students set by the state. For all other student types (resident graduate students, non-resident undergraduate and graduate students, and differential tuition programs), the recommendation is a 3.5% increase, balancing fixed cost increases (cost of living adjustments, inflation on goods and services) with affordability. Because the state passes budgets for public institutions of higher education with an expectation of split funding between state appropriations and tuition revenues, these rate increases are an important piece of the budget picture.

The state passed a strong biennial operating budget that included important investments across state government, including in the state’s higher education system. Those investments are detailed in the Uses section under State and Contractually Determined Items, below. This funding included resources to support a 4.0% general wage increase for employees and shifted the funding model to provide a greater share of the cost than in the past.

The biennial budget includes a slight increase in ASA revenues based on projections of self-sustaining operations.


2023-2024 New Recurring Expenditures

  • Replenish Institutional Benefits Fund: Restore funding pool after past year distributions.
  • Operating Support for Office of Equity: Ongoing operating support for the newly formed Office of Equity.
  • Approved Everett Program Budget: Set a recurring budget for the Everett program tuition portion to better support financial planning and budgeting. Previously, this tuition revenue was handled through transfers.
  • Support for Mandatory Student Advising: Addressing staffing needs to provide mandatory student advising to a pilot cohort, with the goal of expanding the number of students advised in their first two years at WWU.
  • Graduate TA Stipends: Continuation of annual funding increases for TA stipends.
  • Permanent Funding for Undergraduate Recruitment: This item appropriately reflects an ongoing expenditure, which has previously been funded on a one-time basis.
  • Honors College Stabilization: Current cohort sizes in the Honors College have been funded on a one-time basis for several years. This item converts those one-time transfers into recurring budget, better representing the costs in the budget plan.
  • Base Funding for University Commitments in Academic Affairs: This item reflects university contract commitments that have been paid in the Academic Affairs division. Additional shifts of budget to cover university level commitments that occur in Academic Affairs are included in compensation and in one-time items, below.
  • Hazardous Waste Removal: Hazardous waste removal is a regular and ongoing cost for a university; this item reflects that cost in the budget plan.
  • Software Licenses: The budget includes recurring funding for essential software licenses (Zoom, Microsoft Premier, and Panopto captioning software).
  • Compensation: Western’s budget includes a placeholder for compensation increases, based on negotiated agreements with the classified unions, the professional staff compensation plan, and general wage increases. The compensation line item also includes benefit rate changes and funding for previously negotiated compensation items. All compensation increases will be in accordance with bargaining agreements (for faculty and classified staff) or the professional staff compensation plan.

  • Student Retention and Success: State funding is provided to reduce class sizes in remedial and introductory math courses to improve first-year student retention; to expand remedial English 101 courses to improve first-year student retention; for two disability accommodation counselors at the Disability Access Center; and to expand first- year seminars and early start programs to improve first-year student retention, including developing an orientation for students receiving the Washington College Grant, focusing on first-generation and traditionally underrepresented students.

  • Western on the Peninsulas Expansion: State funding is provided to establish new 2+2 undergraduate degree programs in engineering, data science, and sociology at Western on the Peninsulas; to establish a Masters of Social Work program at Western on the Peninsulas; to convert the Human Services program at Western on the Peninsulas from self-sustaining to state-supported to reduce tuition rates for students in the program; and for additional student support and outreach services at Western on the Peninsulas.

  • Dual Language Educators: State funding is provided for the expansion of bilingual educators' education.

  • Central Services (Including Direct Legal Services): Funding is provided to cover a portion of Western’s contribution to state-provided services.

  • Postsecondary Student Needs: Funding is provided to implement Second Substitute House Bill 1559 (Postsecondary student needs) and hire 0.75 FTE benefits navigator per campus.

  • Mental Health First Aid Training: Funding is provided for mental health first aid training for faculty.

  • Small Business Development Center Technical Assistance Program: Funding is provided for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to increase technical assistance to black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) small business owners in Whatcom County.