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In an effort to reduce Washington State University's $30 million deficit, back in October of 2017, president Kirk Schulz announced he was axing the school's performing arts program, slashing all department budgets by 2.5 percent, and dumping the Multicultural Student Services unit despite his plan to raise more money by recruiting international students.
At the time I groused about the school cutting back on academic programs (and, yes, some athletic programs) in favor of football, noting that WSU had "spent its way to college football relevancy" over the course of the last seven years or so. It's an extremely common story in higher education, but it still sucks, and it's our moral duty to point to the sucky thing that keeps happening and say "that still sucks."
But last Friday the sucky WSU story got more interesting.
The intrepid writers at The Daily Evergreen now report that former (and late) president Elson S. Floyd used nearly $50 million from WSU's reserves to forgive loans for athletics and construction expenses, including $10.10 million for a "Golf Course & Clubhouse," $3.8 million for "Deficit coverage for WSU Athletics when former athletic director Jim Sterk was hired," and $4.5 million for "Additional accumulated deficits for WSU Athletics."
To give you some perspective, the already stripped-down Performing Arts program only used $228,571 per year from the university's reserves. And yet, Schulz decided that the program had to go because funding it was "simply not sustainable."
The twist here is that former president Floyd himself established the Performing Arts program back in 2011 in order to maintain a continued presence of theater at WSU after the theater department closed in 2008. So the Floyd giveth and the Floyd taketh away.
The full breakdown of the forgiven loans shows WSU prioritized buildings and brawn over brains:
Loan forgiveness total breakdown:
President Floyd forgave $26.7 million in internal university loans for a variety of different projects including
Golf Course & Clubhouse – $10.10 million
Deficit coverage for WSU Athletics when former athletic director Jim Sterk was hired – $3.8 million
Additional accumulated deficits for WSU Athletics – $4.5 million
Spokane Real Estate purchase – $5.3 million
Relocation costs for Veterinary Medicine – $1.8 million
Loan for Parking Renovations – $1.2 million
Additionally, WSU did not have the following expenses budgeted, which resulted in $22.2 million additional deficit
Fiscal Year 2014 WSU Athletics annual deficit – $13.3 million
Overspending Financial Aid funds – $2.7 million
ESF Medical School consultants – $1.7 million
WSU Everett IT purchases – $1.2 million
All other areas – $3.3 million