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March 18, 2013 at 4:46 PM
Earlier this year, the presidents of Washington’s four-year colleges promised to freeze in-state undergraduate tuition if the Legislature would allocate an additional $225 million to fund higher education.
But that scenario is looking less likely every day. If there are no increases — but also no cuts — tuition is likely to go up by about 5 to 7 percent in the next school year. Washington State University probably would raise tuition a little less than that, by about 2 to 3 percent.
The picture should become more clear Wednesday, when the state releases its revenue forecast.
Last week, the state learned that its budget shortfall had grown by $300 million, primarily because it miscalculated how much money it would save from moving certain Medicaid patients to managed care. The total budget shortfall is now about $1.3 billion.
“Conversations have gotten increasingly pessimistic,” said Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the University of Washington. “Legislators are telling us no new cuts would be a victory.”
State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, says he’s still hoping to add an extra $300 million for all higher education needs, including money for faculty salary increases and help for community and technical colleges. But he noted that a House Republican proposal unveiled earlier added no new money to higher education, and “I have not seen signs that the House Democrats are planning to add money.”
“I’m now quite alarmed,” he said.
Shepherd said she expects most of the four-year universities will raise tuition by more than inflation, but less than double-digit increases — “somewhere between 5 to 7 percent to meet basic needs.”
WSU would raise its tuition less because last year President Elson Floyd pledged to keep tuition increases at the rate of inflation if higher education funding was not cut, said Chris Mulick, director of governmental relations at WSU. A cost-of-living tuition increase would be about 2 to 3 percent, he said.
It’s also unclear how the budget would affect community college tuition. Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, said that if there’s no new money from the state and no new tuition dollars, “it’s a reduction” because of inflation.
“We’re just starting the conversation as to what happens if there’s no cuts and no adds,” he said.
February 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM
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.
February 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM
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.
January 22, 2013 at 11:35 AM
While the rest of the state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, state lawmakers worked through the holiday and filed a number of bills on topics ranging from veterans to motorcycle helmets.
On Monday, state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, filed Senate Bill 5143, which would remove mandatory helmet use for motorcycle riders age 18 or over. So far, the bill has bipartisan support; three of 11 sponsors are Democrats.
Attending state universities and community colleges could become much easier for veterans if legislators approve Senate Bill 5179, filed by Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds. The bill would eliminate the one-year waiting period required for veterans to become eligible for in-state tuition.
A bill filed by Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, would provide short-term and crisis care for children removed from their homes by child care and law enforcement authorities. House Bill 1261 states that placing a child in foster care can sometimes take several days, and the centers created by the bill would give a children a place to stay while their needs are assessed. So far, Hope is the bill’s only sponsor.
January 9, 2013 at 6:36 PM
The state Attorney General’s office gave a quick response Wednesday to a question state Sen. Pam Roach, R- Auburn, asked this week about whether state university and college tuition rates must be approved by the Legislature.
At issue is whether Initiative 1185, the voter-approved initiative that requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, requires the state Legislature to approve tuition rates. And the answer is yes — in a letter to Roach, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even wrote that I-1185 has the same effect as its predecessor, I-1053, which requires legislative approval for an increase in public tuition rates, although “that legislative approval could take any number of potential forms.”
“The good news is that with this, thanks to voters approving it, the only way tuition is going up is if the Legislature chooses to vote for it,” said Tim Eyman, the sponsor of I-1185.
But University of Washington officials say they have sought, and received, legislative approval to raise tuition rates for several years now. The governing bodies at state schools vote on a tuition amount for the next year, and the tuition increases are later written into the state budget, which is then approved by the Legislature, said Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the UW. “We don’t see any change from current practice,” she said.
Eyman said he thinks the Legislature won’t give the universities that latitude this year. “In this tug of war, the last tug was the voters,” he said. “The Legislature has the authority to set tuition. They would be foolish to give it back.”
January 9, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Did Initiative 1185, the voter-approved measure that requires a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature to increase taxes, rescind tuition-setting authority that was granted by lawmakers in 2011 to Washington universities?
Initiative supporter Tim Eyman and state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, say it did. Roach has asked the Attorney General’s Office to examine tuition-setting authority in light of I-1185, which passed in November.
But University of Washington officials say the Legislature has annually delegated the authority for universities to raise tuition in the budget bill, and I-1185 won’t change that. The initiative also requires a majority vote in the Legislature to raise fees, and tuition has been interpreted as a fee by the attorney general.
In an email to the attorney general, Roach said she believes that “the voters, by giving I-1185 almost two-thirds of the vote, clearly re-established the elected Legislature to make decisions on tuition, not unelected officials at state universities.”
The Attorney General’s office has looked at this issue once before, when it responded to a question about how I-1053, a similar tax initiative, would affect increases in tuition fees.
In 2011, State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, asked if that initiative required additional legislative action before a tuition increase could go forward. The informal opinion was yes, although the attorneys wrote that the Legislature “could either enact a statute directly imposing or increasing a fee in a specified amount, or could instead delegate authority to impose or increase fees to an administrative agency.”
Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the UW, says the Legislature has routinely delegated the authority to impose or increase tuition to universities and colleges as part of its budget bill. Shepherd said this was true even before the Legislature gave the state’s schools tuition-setting authority. “We believe the same will be necessary and true after the passage of I-1185,” she said.
“The people, when they passed I-1053 in 2010, said they wanted fees set by the Legislature,” Eyman wrote. “The Legislature in 2011 delegated the authority. If Sen. Roach is correct (and based on the Benton informal opinion, she is), then the people in 2012 gave it back to the Legislature again.
“Think of it as a tug-of-war but the last ‘pull’ was the voters’ overwhelming approval of I-1185 last November,” he wrote.
The Attorney General’s Office is expected to give an informal opinion in a few weeks.
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