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Politics Northwest

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

June 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Tuition freeze, funding increase please higher-education leaders

Higher education leaders said Friday they were pleased with the proposed legislative budget that bumps higher education funding by 12 percent and freezes tuition for at least a year for in-state undergraduate students.

The proposed budget adds $119 million in funding over two years, plus an extra $18 million to grow computer science and engineering programs at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University.

It’s “a significant step forward,” said University of Washington President Michael Young in a statement. He said the budget agreement “will allow the UW to hold resident undergraduate tuition rates at their current levels without compromising the extraordinary quality of students’ educations.”

“The Washington State Legislature has turned an important corner toward re-investing in higher education,” said WSU President Elson Floyd, in a statement. “By far, the most encouraging part is the recognition that we cannot continue to fund higher education on the backs of our students.”

The state’s 34 community and technical colleges also saw a $10 million bump for performance funding, to reward schools that are doing a good job of graduating students.

“I think we did pretty well — we’re reasonably happy with everything,” said Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Both two- and four-year schools will be prohibited from raising tuition for the 2013-14 school year. They have the option of raising tuition for 2014-15, but if they do so, they’ll be required to set aside more money for financial aid.

At the UW, the $8.9 million in new money for engineering and computer science will help grow programs that are bursting at the seams. Many applicants are turned away from those programs every year because they are full.

Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the UW and a ubiquitous presence in Olympia during the legislative session, said the tide toward more higher education funding seemed to turn as legislators became more aware of how budget cuts over the economic downturn have caused tuition rates to rise.

The state has cut university funding by about 50 percent since 2009, and Washington now ranks near the bottom among all states in per-student funding. In response to the cuts, Washington colleges and universities raised tuition by double-digit amounts for four straight years.

Comments | More in Education, Politics Northwest, State government, State Legislature | Topics: higher education

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