Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed investing $3.8 million in WSU’s engineering program. This will allow for 425 more engineering majors, Chief Budget Officer Joan King said.
The governor’s budget proposal for the special session includes allocating $7.6 million for WSU and UW’s programs.
associate dean for the College of Engineering and Architecture, served on the Project Pegasus committee, a group organized to encourage legislators to support the plan.
Olsen said the state of Washington is 45th in the nation for engineering production. With companies like Boeing and its 650 contractors, Washington universities are not producing enough engineers to fill the jobs, he said. The funding will be used to support faculty salaries, he said.
At a Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting Thursday, WSU President Elson S. Floyd said supporting engineering programs will secure the future of Boeing, which is “clearly vital” for the recovery of the state.
“The timing is now, and the urgency is immediate for us to make significant ground relative to the aerospace industry,” Floyd said. “If we are to have a return to the robustness of the economic conditions which we have endured previously, we have to make strategic investments.”
Meanwhile, the university as a whole is facing a possible 17-percent cut.
German professor Rachel Halverson said she understands the funding disparity and sees it as a fact of the system.
“(Gregoire) is simply looking at the state’s employment needs and the fact that our state universities do not produce an adequate number of professionals to meet the needs of employers,” Halverson said.
In spite of that, Halverson said she feels alienated by recent events like Mylar wrapped buses, the hiring of Mike Leach and multi-million dollar building projects.
“Every day, I remind myself to be thankful that I am still employed, able to work on my research on a contemporary German author and to teach subjects in which I passionately am interested ... ” she said. “But every day I ask why those restrictions are not being reviewed and revised.”
More engineers may help reverse cuts, Olsen said. By putting tax dollars into the state, social programs such as education will be supported in the long term.
“That’s always the trade off that you have,” Olsen said. “Yes, I understand the critical issue with some of those programs. But it’s not just a critical issue now, it’s a critical issue three years from now, five years from now.”