- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - The new president of Washington State University says the school’s spending habits are not sustainable.

Kirk Schulz, who took over as president on Monday, first raised concerns about WSU’s financial situation in a letter posted to his website last month.

The former Kansas State University president scrutinized capital spending decisions by WSU’s board of regents and the athletic department’s $13 million deficit.

The university spends more than it takes in and relies too heavily on reserves, Schulz said. And administrators haven’t been using a formalized process to craft the biennial budget.

He’s working on a plan to balance the athletic department’s budget and will announce details in the coming months, Schulz told The Spokesman-Review.

He said his public letter last month wasn’t intended to give the impression that Washington State is in dire financial trouble.

“When you’re a new leader, you look at what finances and resources you have coming in,” he said. “And I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the senior leadership about the things we need to work on.”

At a time of record enrollment and rapid development, WSU is poised to spend a lot of money in coming years. The university recently funneled nearly $132 million into capital projects.

Other projects worth $212 million are under construction, and another $240 million in projects are in the design and planning phases.

Schulz said the school hasn’t identified funding sources for many of those projects, and some proposals were approved by the regents “without a robust financial analysis.”

The school’s chief financial officer, Joan King, said WSU has expanded to catch up with growing enrollment in the years since the recession. The university has gained more than 2,300 students since 2008, a spike of 10 percent, for a current enrollment of about 25,700.

“We lost 50 percent of our state funding in a very short period of time, and at the same time we were bringing in a lot more students,” King said. “Now we’re in a different position to revise, review and develop our budget in a formalized way. Each president does things differently.”

Schulz said in his letter that the university has been “spending down central reserves at a significant rate and will need to make some adjustments.” Specific figures weren’t immediately available.

The athletic department deficit was caused by coaching salaries, buyouts and debt service on $140 million in new football facilities. Fundraising efforts have fallen short, and the school hasn’t made as much as expected from its contract with the Pac-12 Networks.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com


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