Congratulations to the University of Washington on a successful year of fundraising.

Every dollar contributed to the school represents more than financial stability for the institution but also dividends for a region and state that benefits from its many contributions. The investment is symbolic of the value Washingtonians see in the public institution and the trust they place in its mission.

More than 141,000 private donors contributed $684 million during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to a recent report.

That translates into meaningful support for scholars and faculty: Twenty-nine percent of the endowment’s $130 million in distributions last year directly supported more than 6,800 students with scholarships and fellowships. Another 23% supported faculty, 23% supported other university activities, 18% went to support academics and 7% supported research.

Even though fundraising has become a critical contributor, increasing quality and access to education, legislators should not use the school’s success as an excuse to shrug off their obligations to this public institution.

State lawmakers have recently taken meaningful steps to relieve the UW from austerity measures demanded by the Great Recession. In 2008, lawmakers appropriated $390 million for UW’s core educational operations, a number that was slashed nearly in half by 2013. The $397 million the state has earmarked for UW in FY20 is a big step in the right direction, and a worthy investment.


Consider: The school drove $15.7 billion of economic activity in Washington in the fiscal year that ended June 30; its operations supported or sustained more than 100,000 jobs and generated $752.7 million in state and local taxes, according to an economic impact study released last week.

But in another sense, the UW’s contributions to our state and communities are incalculable. More than 363,000 UW alum live and work in Washington, according to UW statistics. They can be found in every sector of our economy — public and private. They are doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, elected officials and public servants. Moreover, state and local leaders frequently call on researchers and experts on UW campuses to help find solutions to challenges in governance, education and many other fields.

UW Medicine provides an excellent example, accounting for $8 billion of the UW’s annual contribution to Washington’s economy, supporting or sustaining nearly 51,500 jobs. UW hospitals admitted 64,410 patients last year; its clinics recorded nearly 1.8 million patient visits. The medical system provided more than $461 million in care for those who could not pay.

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It is important to recognize and celebrate these vital contributions, particularly as some prominent figures openly express their suspicion of science and professional expertise.

When considering the costs of higher education, it is important also to celebrate its many contributions to the common good.