New University of Washington President Michael Young began his first official day as “Top Dawg” Tuesday, saying his new role is an enormous privilege and he’s looking forward to being a Husky.

Young, 61, takes over just days after the university Board of Regents approved a 20 percent tuition increase, the highest in history.

While he expressed concern over the university’s funding from the state, he said the tuition increase was just one part of a bigger problem -- a nationwide pattern of eroding state support for public universities that has been taking place over the past 25 years.

“The funding streams for major public research universities are changing and we need to think through the implications of those changes, we need to think through how we ensure that our core missions remain intact, how we continue to improve, and become even better at what we are so good at doing in the first place, in light of those funding stream changes,” Young said.

Still, Young said he’s not blind to the financial burden tuition increases place on students. “We are also deeply committed to ensure that this doesn’t push anybody off the table ... we are expanding by 45 percent the financial aid available for students to help them pay for this.”

But some students say it’s not enough. They say the new president needs to focus his energy on lowering the cost of education.

“Education is becoming really unaffordable,” said Pranay, a UW student.  “A lot of people at this point in time are considering, is college or a bachelor’s degree even worth it?”

Young responded by saying the university is “committed to helping people through that and making sure these tuition increases allow us to maintain the quality of education but don’t result in people who otherwise would be able to come here not be able to come here. We want them here. We’re committed to doing that.”

Young pointed to a “sense of commitment and excitement” that attracted him to the UW. He said that as universities deal with their current challenges, the UW could be a national, if not global leader, in finding a way ahead.

“That’s what we need to be thinking. We need to get the best minds sitting down thinking about what are these pressures doing that can allow us to be more effective, or more efficient at our core missions, and how do we respond to that. How do we stay on the front end of the wave and not get crushed by the waves crashing over us? And generally speaking, that’s what I think is the biggest challenge but the biggest opportunity as well.”

Young is a former president of the University of Utah, a former dean of George Washington University Law School and a former professor for 20 years at Columbia University.

Young said that through innovation, and cutting-edge technology, the institution can be the best of the best.

And he’s looking forward to making Seattle home. “This is just a wonderful place to live, and the more I learn about it, and the more people I meet, the more excited I am to be here.”

Young’s total salary is just over $800,000, which includes retirement benefits and a car allowance. Mark Emmert, who Young replaced, made just over $900,000.