This post has been updated to include new information
A two-year-old bit of legislation allowing state universities to charge variable tuition rates for different majors may be headed for a quick demise.
Late Thursday, the House Higher Education Committee voted unanimously to end the so-called “differential tuition.” The bill, House Bill 1043, now goes for a vote before the full House on Monday, said state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who heads the higher ed committee.
State four-year schools gained the authority to charge differential tuition in 2011 so they could support and grow high-demand programs, like computer science, engineering and business. Those programs often cost more to run because they require small-group mentoring by faculty, and because professors in those programs often command higher salaries — they’re in big demand in the marketplace.
The only problem: If the University of Washington charged more for a computer science degree, the state’s prepaid college tuition program’s payout would have to be raised to match that program’s tuition. That’s because the Guaranteed Education Tuition program is pegged to the highest undergraduate, in-state tuition among public colleges.
GET is already underfunded by about $600 million. The new payout would have greatly exacerbated the problem.
“We need, for GET, to shut that (differential tuition) program down,” said Seaquist, who said his bill has bipartisan support.
The differential tuition legislation was suspended last year, so none of Washington’s six four-year colleges has ever charged extra for certain degrees. The only school that said it was interested in doing so was the UW.