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April 4, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Academic employees want UW to stop raising fees

Academic employees at the University of Washington say they want the UW’s Board of Regents to stop raising fees to plug budget holes. They’re planning to turn out in force during a budget forum Thursday on campus.

“For the last two years, tuition and fee revenue has been the university’s slush fund,” said David Parsons, president of United Auto Workers 4121, which represents about 4,200 academic employees at the UW.

Parsons said the university has restructured some programs to make them entirely fee-based, “which means astronomical tuition for individuals, and has a direct impact on overall compensation and competitiveness,” he said.

Most of the employees represented by UAW 4121 are graduate students who work as teaching assistants or researchers for the university. Academic salaries have been frozen for the past three years, while tuition and fees have risen, sometimes by as much as 50 percent, Parsons said. In effect, that has been like taking a pay cut, he said.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents will hold the second of two meetings to take input on the proposed budget,  which takes effect July 1. The meeting will be in Kane Hall, room 225, at 2:30 p.m.

The school has raised tuition and frozen salaries because state support of the university has been cut dramatically in the last several years. Between 2011 and 2012, for example, state support was cut by 35 percent. Over the last five years, the price of tuition for an in-state undergraduate student has nearly doubled.

The state Legislature has proposed a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that would keep most higher education funding intact, although the UW would lose $4 million, bringing its state appropriation to $210 million for the coming year. It would also be required to boost its engineering and health science budgets by $4.2 million to help grow those programs, and as a result, would have to cut that amount from other departments.

In February, in the first public forum on the budget, the regents heard from about 100 students who described the hardships they’ve faced because of ¬†tuition increases.

The regents are expected to discuss tuition increases during their May meeting, and vote on an increase in June.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: fees, Regents, tuition

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