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Originally published Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 8:39 PM

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UW students give Regents an earful on tuition woes

About 100 students told the University of Washington's Board of Regents Wednesday of their struggle with rising tuition and fees.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

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we cant afford not to fund college degrees. money from the state should be used to... MORE
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About 100 University of Washington students described how they struggle to pay the ever-escalating tuition and fees — taking on two jobs to pay the bills and sweating when the rent comes due — during a public forum Wednesday before the school's Board of Regents.

And while many of the students acknowledged the regents have little choice but to raise tuition because of the sharp cutbacks in state funding, others called for the university to take a harder look at administrative salaries and student fees.

Gabriela Guillen said that student research into the UW budget had found more than 150 non-faculty positions in which the salary is more than $165,000 a year — about what Gov. Chris Gregoire makes.

"This is a public university, not a business," Guillen, a sociology major, said to a burst of applause.

Undergraduate, in-state tuition at the UW went up 20 percent last year, to $10,575 in tuition and fees.

The costs have nearly doubled at the UW in five years. In 2006-07, in-state undergraduates paid $5,460 in tuition, and about 10 percent more in fees.

The increases are primarily due to eroding state support. Since 2009, the state has significantly cut appropriations to higher education and now spends less on funding for its six four-year schools than it did in 1990.

Dharma Dailey, a graduate student from New York, said that after she was accepted into the program on human-centered design and engineering, she discovered she could not get a job in the UW as a teaching assistant — many graduate students get academic teaching posts that help pay for much of their tuition — and would have to go into debt to pay for the program.

As a result, she chose to leave her 10-year-old daughter behind in New York with relatives so she could attend school here.

"I think that was the right sacrifice," she said. "But I want to put on the record that our situation feels very tenuous, and there's a fine line between tenuous and untenable."

Several students implored the trustees to take a more aggressive stand in favor of taxation reform, and thanked regent William Gates Sr. for his support of an income-tax initiative, I-1098, that failed at the polls in November 2010.

"I really appreciate his effort, but Mr. Gates is the exception, not the rule," said senior Eunice How, who called for the regents to take "a firm public stand in support of progressive revenue."

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.

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