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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

February 15, 2013 at 9:08 AM

State Senate considers legislation to increase international student tuition

Tuition rates for international students attending Washington’s state universities would increase by 20 percent if state Senate moves forward with a bill proposed by Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina. Tom intends the tuition increase to go toward Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, which is in need of additional funding.

Tom argued that the bill isn’t an attack on international students, but rather is more of a recognition that foreigners attending state universities are using public programs that they haven’t supported with taxes. Several representatives from Washington universities and student governments testified about the proposal Thursday before the Senate Higher Education Committee, but none supported it.

Angie Weiss, who represents the Associated Students of the University of Washington, said she’s glad Tom is looking for ways to fund GET, but international students shouldn’t be paying for a program they don’t use. She also expressed concern that international students might avoid Washington universities if their tuition is increased by such a significant amount.

“We would like to find a different way for [international students] to contribute,” Weiss said. “And we would like to find a different way to find the GET program.”

International students make up about 6 percent of Washington State University’s student body. But Tristan Hanon, an Associated Students of Washington State University representative, said their presence is greatly valued on campus. He said international students teach Washington residents to be global citizens and encourage them to explore study abroad opportunities. Hanon recently studied in England at the urging of a European friend.

University administrations are also wary of the tuition increase. University of Washington lobbyist Margaret Shepherd said UW officials worry the draft bill could lead to a sharp decrease in international student enrollment if enacted. International students make up about 10 percent of the university’s undergraduate population and about 14 percent of the graduate student population

Comments | More in Politics Northwest, State Legislature | Topics: International Students, Sen. Rodney Tom, university of washington

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