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Originally published Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:50 PM

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UW cuts may hit Evans School of Public Affairs

Cutting and consolidating the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs is one of a list of possible budget-cutting proposals the UW has made in response to a request by the state Legislature to show how the university would be affected by $190 million to $246 million in cutbacks to the UW's state funding over two years.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

Among the people who are unhappy about a cost-cutting proposal to reorganize the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs is former Gov. Dan Evans — the man for whom the school is named.

Although Evans wasn't at Tuesday's town hall-style meeting on campus to discuss the cutbacks — he's out of state — the former governor sent word through a student that he's "deeply disappointed" in the proposed changes to the graduate school of public policy and management.

Cutting and consolidating the Evans School is one of a list of possible proposals the UW has made in response to a request by the Legislature to show how the UW would be affected by $190 million to $246 million in cutbacks to its state funding over two years.

During Tuesday's meeting in Kane Hall, interim UW President Phyllis Wise emphasized no decisions have been made about what to cut. The hall was packed with hundreds of students, many wearing T-shirts with "The Evans School" printed on the front and "stakeholder" on the back.

"As you all know, the budget situation we face right now is unprecedented," said Wise, who will testify before lawmakers in Olympia on Wednesday about the impacts of the cutbacks.

"If they are going to cut as deeply as they propose, it will mean very painful decisions here on this campus," she said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed cutting the state's entire higher-education budget by $600 million, and she has said the reduction represents a 4 percent cut in state funding, after backfilling with tuition increases.

But state higher-education officials say the cut is more likely to mean a drop of 5.8 percent to 7.5 percent in state support because it's unrealistic to raise tuition across-the-board on degrees that already charge a high tuition, such as some graduate programs.

The Legislature has also asked the state's universities and colleges to show what programs would be on the chopping block if the schools had to cut an additional 15 to 30 percent on top of Gregoire's proposed cut.

As part of that request, the UW has proposed reorganizing and consolidating the Information School, eliminating the Institute for Public Health Genetics, cutting as many as 1,500 university jobs and reducing the number of in-state students admitted every year by as many as 500.

To avoid those types of cuts, the UW would need to raise tuition by 20 to 30 percent. It expects it will need some combination of cutbacks and tuition increases to make up for the shortfall.

Exactly how the Evans and Information schools would be reorganized was unclear, although Wise said each school might be folded into a separate college within the university system, to save administrative costs. The Evans School is a separate entity with its own dean.

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Alan Foster, president of the Evans Student Organization, said he talked to Evans late Tuesday, and the former governor noted there is an especially critical need now for people who are well-trained and well-educated in public service.

The school has about 370 students, and is considered the top graduate program in public policy and management in the Northwest.

Foster said Evans students are concerned that no other options are being presented beyond changing the organization of the school.

Students in the Institute for Public Health Genetics also questioned why their program had been targeted.

One tearfully told of how she had moved to Seattle from Texas to attend the school after she had lost her daughter in utero due to a genetic condition.

Wise encouraged students and faculty members to get in touch with their legislators and make the case for more higher-education funding.

Outside Kane Hall after the meeting, a group of students gathered signatures on petitions to send to the Legislature, asking that funding for higher education be preserved.

"These are very tough decisions," Wise said. "These are choices we do not want to make. It's important the Legislature hear your voices."

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com

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