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Originally published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 9:03 PM

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Civic leaders present blueprint for UW’s future

University of Washington leaders discussed the university’s future with a group of civic and business leaders Thursday.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

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A group of civic and business leaders delivered a blueprint for the future of the University of Washington Thursday, one that recommended admitting more in-state students and competing more aggressively for top talent by offering better faculty salary packages.

The 50-page report, “Washington Futures,” was presented to the UW’s Board of Regents Thursday. The group was assembled by former UW regent Bill Gates Sr.

The report also called for the state and the business and philanthropic communities to step up their support of the university.

The UW’s Seattle campus is physically constrained from adding more students — it would need more classroom space and more operating revenue to increase enrollment, said President Michael Young. But Young didn’t rule out the possibility of expanding enrollment in Seattle.

Most of the room for new student growth is at the branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell, he said. But for most students, the UW is defined by its 150-year-old Seattle residential campus; the number of undergraduates seeking admission there last year was up by 15 percent, at a time when admission numbers at many other colleges and universities were down.

Committee member Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Microsoft, put in a strong argument for more support for computer science and engineering at the UW, which he hailed for its high quality. The department turns many students away each year.

“To me, there’s nothing more disappointing than to meet great 20-, 21-year-old students who want to major in computer science, who clearly have the ability to do so, but are being turned away because the department does not have the capacity to take them,” he said.

Committee members said the UW needs to broaden its appeal and make a better case for why supporting higher education is important for the future.

“The state has serious, major reasons that it should be funding the university to a larger extent than it is, and that case needs to be made clearer and clearer — it needs to be made by a cross-section of the community,” said committee member William Neukom, former Microsoft legal counsel and San Francisco Giants Chairman emeritus. He called for the university to try to “change the culture” in Washington to build more support for higher education.

Neukom said the report is being “offered in a spirit not so much of criticism as exhortation. This university is doing a lot of things right.” And Young called the report “a blueprint for doing precisely the things that have to be done.”

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

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