With the erosion of the state’s support for public higher learning, the UW’s ability to provide the level of world-leading education, research and public service we have come to expect is at great risk.

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AS proud alumni of the University of Washington, we are excited to be part of one of the most ambitious fundraising campaigns in the history of higher education. It is ambitious in that it reflects the high aspirations our alma mater has to serve the citizens of Washington and people everywhere. Its goals reflect what our state has come to expect from the university.

The campaign is called “Be Boundless — For Washington, For the World,” and the goal is to raise $5 billion in philanthropic support by 2020. We are well on our way. More than $3 billion has already been contributed by the university’s many supporters — more than half actually are not alumni.

But we’re not there yet. Those not familiar with the current financial environment in higher education may question why a public university must seek this level of philanthropic support.

Quite simply, times have changed. When we were in school, the level of state funding was much higher and the cost of higher education was much more affordable to more families. With the erosion of the state’s support for public higher learning, the UW’s ability to provide the level of world-leading education, research and public service we have come to expect is at great risk, with college diplomas sometimes accompanied by burdensome student debt and broken dreams.

At the same time, something else has taken shape: Public universities’ quest for greater impact and excellence has intensified, which means the resources necessary to achieve excellence require philanthropic support. These dollars often make the difference between being a very good institution and being a truly exceptional one.

We cannot expect previous levels of state funding to return any time soon — and we cannot settle for being anything less than a world-changing institution of higher learning. That means our commitment to “Be Boundless — For Washington, For the World” is aimed at the core of the UW’s mission: to provide the students of this state with affordable access to a top-quality education, to transform themselves and in turn transform our community, our region, our country and our world.

When all is said and done, our university will be as good as the brightest, most diverse and energetic students who come to our campuses and as good as the faculty we can attract and retain and the resources we provide them to shape the next generation of leaders and problem solvers.

The campaign is focused on four key priorities:

•Transforming the student experience

• Expanding research impact

• Empowering possibility through innovation

• Driving the public good

These priorities lead to real action: increasing scholarship support for diverse, talented students and investing in the best faculty, strengthening the UW’s new 25-year vision for improving population health, expanding the capacity of computer science, engineering and other areas to meet pressing student demand and advancing UW Medicine’s education, patient care and research. These are powerful strategies that will keep the UW at the forefront of education, research and public service and will enable our university to have sustainable, stable footing for years to come.

Ambitious, yes, but thousands of students today and tomorrow are counting on us. And hundreds of volunteers in our community are involved in the campaign, helping the university’s schools, colleges and campuses generate broad-based support for our future. Their work has inspired thousands of people in our community and around the world to participate as donors, investing in a future where the university will continue to help make the world smaller, better, healthier, more equitable and more prosperous.

We invite you to join us — whether it is with financial support, contributing your time and talent to the university or by learning more about the campaign and spreading the word about the importance of our community’s investment in affordable and inclusive higher education. It’s a journey to a brighter future for our state, our region and our children. We all have a role to play.