The latest attempt to address the escalating cost of higher education comes from Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who’s introduced a bill that would limit state college tuition increases to the rate of inflation through 2018.
HB 1624 aims to move Washington toward a 50-50 split between students and the state, with students paying half the cost of their education and the state paying the rest.
Currently, at the University of Washington, students pay about 70 percent of the cost of their education — this year, that’s tuition and fees of $12,400. The state pays for the rest, through appropriations to the university.
Pollet said his bill has support from both parties — from fellow Democrat Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, as well as Republicans Larry Haler of Richland and Hans Zeiger of Puyallup. Seaquist and Pollet are chair and co-chair of the House Higher Education Committee.
Pollet’s goal is to keep tuition at UW and Washington State University to about 10 percent of median household income, which is where it was five years ago. Currently, it’s grown to 20 percent of median household income, he said.
Pollet said keeping tuition in line with inflation would take an additional $198 million over the next biennium for both four-year schools and community colleges. In a separate bill Pollet has filed, HB 1494, he is proposing a doubling of the estate tax to help raise about $100 million per biennium for higher education.
Slowing tuition growth would have the added benefit of stabilizing the Guaranteed Tuition Education program, which is underfunded, Pollet said.