Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities would agree to freeze tuition for another two years if the state Legislature increases college funding by 16 percent, the presidents of those institutions said Thursday.
That 16 percent, which would total $198 million, would also allow the schools to expand their enrollment and increase the number of students who earn degrees in high-demand fields, according to the statement from the Council of Presidents, made up of the presidents of Washington’s six four-year schools.
The request comes at a time when the state faces a $2.35 billion budget gap. Earlier this year, the state budget office asked the institutions to model a 15 percent cut — not an increase. The presidents warned that such a cut would be devastating.
The six schools received about $1.2 billion in state funding in the 2013-15 biennium, a slight increase from the previous two years. Before that boost in funding, the institutions had been raising tuition by double-digit amounts. Although the Legislature increased funding in 2013 and 2014, it also put a halt to skyrocketing tuition increases by instituting a two-year tuition freeze.
“We are now at a major turning point that will determine the trajectory of our state as well as long-term opportunities for our students,” Dr. Thomas L. (Les) Purce, president of The Evergreen State College and chair of the Council of Presidents, said in a statement. “Adequately funding higher education will move the state forward, grow our economy, and increase opportunities for our residents.”
The Council of Presidents says that Washington ranks 49th among the 50 states in terms of the amount of money it provides per college student to support higher education.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to include more than $1 billion in new taxes and other new revenue when he releases his state budget proposal next week. He’ll unveil the education portion of his budget on Monday.