The University of Washington has a new president...


...and perhaps he's somehow loosely related to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback,
Steve Young. Michael Young was unanimously selected last week to lead the UW onward into privatization. This sounds good, right? Dr. Young has a wealth of experience working to drum up private funds and administer university programs with input from the private sector. I mean, what else does UW need right now aside from somebody to save it from Washington itself?

With apathetic (or incompetent?) leadership in the Washington Statehouse, Washington's public university funding is slipping, reducing access, and increasing the costs--especially to first generation college students and middle class students--of higher education (See the WA State Budget and Policy Center's full report on higher education). The UW is now doing less educating, researching and community service for more tuition money, with inadequate state support. Additionally, demand is rising while the UW reduces enrollment. At least the UW's current and future predicament finally answers the question, "What kind of education do you get when residents pay vastly low taxes in perpetuity and the legislature diverts most of them away from future generations?" You get a lower quality of education and a student body that comes from greater financial means. Course delivery suffers and the student body starts to look more and more like the cast of Happy Days--if Happy Days had been based in Bellevue.

So what is the UW's answer to their plight in hiring Michael Young? I'm not entirely sure, although Phyllis Wise has been pretty clear in that it's not providing adequate support to student academic employees who are shouldering a greater proportion of the burdens of teaching, research and service at the UW.

Michael Young was an academic at Columbia and George Washington University before serving as the top dawg for the University of Utah. He also advised George W. Bush at various points. His name is largely as an academic, but his task at UW will be to raise cash and hopefully revenue through Olympia, but that has been a daunting task for even the most staunch of lobbyists. Perhaps Young's task is to drum up the corporate money that will save the UW?

Joel Connelly at the Seattlepi.com has recently and wisely rebuffed the Seattle Times' notion that the UW is a technical school that must have Young increase the value of Microsoft and Boeing for shareholders through technology transfer and "strategic partnerships" (and other business jargon the Times may not fully understand--full article here). I find it ironic that the Times feels this way after lobbying against the revenue increases that would be needed for the UW to not preferentially admit out-of-state students, cut classes and increase costs. The current argument for higher education in Washington State is to use public infrastructure to subsidize companies that are already vastly subsidized within Washington State? Instead of keeping sustainable revenue streams that provide world class higher education--in addition to resources, services and an economic engine for an entire corner of Seattle (and Washington State)? Doesn't that make the UW a private school?

Michael Young has a proven track record, but it will be difficult for anyone to get UW righted and afloat from any combination of public, philanthropic and business funding with Olympia's current "leadership." The collective mentality of what higher education can, should and will be in Washington State will have to shift away from less with more for Young to get the expectd results. At present it sounds like UW students will receive less with less for more tuition. Good luck Huskies* and good luck Dr. Young--I look forward to attending the Apple Cup by iPad at the newly refurbished Bing Stadium after walking past the Seattle Foundation center for undergraduate research at Mary Gates Hall along the Dreamliner-Gilman trail.

*If I were expecting a child, I'd probably buy a few GET credits to insulate my child's education costs from the legislature. Then again, who knows, they might just try to get creative and divert that cash into the general fund...

Greatest Hits