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Planning & Budgeting Brief Date: January 26, 2011

Summary: Planning & Budgeting Brief
Date: January 26, 2011
Subject: Variations in Institutional Autonomy among the UW and its Peers
This brief explores varying levels of institutional autonomy--an institution's legal authority to manage its internal
business and affairs free from external control--among the UW's Global Challenge State (GCS) Peers and the University of
Michigan. It finds that while constitutionally protected institutional autonomy is rare and unlikely to emerge where it
does not already exist, several states have expanded institutions' ability to manage their own resources. However, even
in the case of full constitutional autonomy the state often has the ability to manage certain aspects of institutional
business, particularly pricing, public health and safety, employment, compensation, and accountability to the public.
The so-called "privatization" of public universities has been a hot topic in the US for at least a decade as two recessions
have accelerated a decades-long trend of reduced state support for higher education. In fact, after recent cuts, state
support for many large public research institutions already comprises less than 10 percent of the annual university
budget, and tuition revenue now exceeds state funding for the first time in history in such states as Washington and
California. However, isolating the research, health, and auxiliary enterprises reveals that the remaining state support is
still vital to the core educational enterprise. In fact, IPEDS data show that state appropriations cover from 37 percent to
100 percent (42 percent at the UW) of instructional expenditures for the group of institutions in the chart below.
Selected Comparative Data for UW Global Challenge State Peers (plus Michigan)


Source: Anderson, Richard - Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington at Seattle


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences