Thursday, July 11, 2013
Years of double-digit tuition increases at Washington state’s public universities and colleges have made higher education out of reach for some students of modest means.
As tuition increased, the amount of money available for grants and scholarships has been reduced. More money was needed to pay the higher tuition and the Great Recession made it more difficult to raise money to replenish the grant programs.
But the University of Washington and Washington State University took action that sets the right tone to keep college costs down. The schools’ leaders agreed to freeze tuition rates after the Legislature boosted higher-education spending.
It was a good call for lawmakers and higher-education leaders. The expectation tuition was going to increase year-over-year had to be removed.
The funding plan doesn’t make college any less expensive for most, but it does boost state subsidy to operate the state-owned and -operated institutions.
The recently approved budget increases higher-education funding by 12 percent. The money will be used to beef up core academic programs and expand computer-science and engineering programs at three universities.
The direction taken by education and legislative leaders is refreshing, and provides hope for further actions to make higher education more affordable.
As we have been saying since double-digit tuition increases have become the norm, higher education can’t continue down its current path. The quality of education will suffer here and in other states.
This problem is not confined to Washington. Oregon’s leaders are pondering a novel idea to make higher education affordable to all. Its approach has caught the attention of the nation.
Under the proposal, and it’s just a proposal, tuition would be eliminated as a requirement for enrolling in a university. Instead, the state would implement a post-college payment program that would be collected like +axes.
Students wouldn’t start paying until after they graduate, but when they do they would then be required to pay up to 3 percent of their future salaries into a state fund annually for 24 years.
It is an interesting idea that, if it pencils out, is worth considering. But this proposal has yet to be vetted and is a long way from fruition.
Innovation is needed to adequately fund higher education and make certain college is accessible and affordable for all.