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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

April 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New law should alleviate some tuition surprises

M. Ryder / Op Art

M. Ryder / Op Art

A new state law requires the state’s four-year universities and colleges to do a better job of notifying students if their program is going to become fee-based, which usually causes a spike in tuition costs.

It also requires administrators to work with students and create clearer criteria for which programs fit into the fee-based category.

The law, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last week, stems from a controversy that arose more than a year ago when the University of Washington moved a number of graduate programs into the fee-based category.

Fee-based programs are not subsidized by state funding, and students bear the full cost of the program. When a program becomes fee-based, students in that program often aren’t eligible for some types of financial-aid assistance.

Some academics say the switch to fee based is symbolic of a philosophical shift — a belief that higher education, and especially graduate degrees, benefit only the people who receive the training, and not society as a whole.

The UW is the largest producer of graduate degrees in the state and increasingly more of those degrees are fee based.

A decade ago, only about 14 percent were fee based, but by last year, nearly a third of grad students were enrolled in fee-based programs, according to the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), a student-government group.

The school has said that most of the fee-based offerings were created to serve older students who are seeking another degree or a certificate to enhance their careers, and are often offered in the evening, online and sometimes during the weekend.

Among the school’s fee-based programs are a master’s degree in library and information science and a master of science in human-centered design and engineering.

The complete list is on the university’s Professional & Continuing Education website.

Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, tuition, University of Washington

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