It was Washington State University President Elson S. Floyd who was scheduled to speak to the Wenatchee Rotary Thursday. The Cougar alumni gathered, crimson clad. Cougar Gold cheese was served. Many expressions of pride were contemplated by the WSU-connected graduates, parents, faculty, retired faculty, researchers and more. WSU roots sink deep here.
But it was not to be. Olympia called. Floyd’s input was needed as the state House and Senate work out their long-overdue compromise on the state operating budget. In his stead Floyd sent Anson W. Fatland, WSU’s associate vice president of Economic Development and External Affairs. Fatland told the audience what it already must know, with its multiple connections to the state’s institutions of higher learning. It is something the Legislature should not forget, in its yearly quest to erase deficits and balance budgets. Washington’s public universities and colleges are investments with high rates of return. The ideas and human ingenuity that flow from our institutions of higher learning flood the regional economy and form the basis of entire industries. In a modern economy based on technological advance and skilled services, this is not a small matter. You can’t shortchange higher education for long without robbing bits and chunks of the state’s future prosperity.