UW looks at 20 percent tuition hike
The University of Washington may raise undergraduate, in-state tuition by about 20 percent or more next year, the second-largest percentage increase in the school's history.
Seattle Times higher education reporter
The University of Washington may raise undergraduate, in-state tuition by about 20 percent or more next year, the second-largest percentage increase in the school's history. At that rate, tuition and fees would rise this September to $10,574 from $8,700.
The actual increase is slightly higher than 20 percent because mandatory fees also are going up.
But university officials say when added together, tuition and fees would still be slightly lower than the price of a year at Washington State University, and below the average charged by comparable schools.
The UW's Board of Regents met Thursday and is expected to make a final decision June 30.
If the board approves an increase of 20 percent or more, UW could become the only university in the state to take advantage of a new state law allowing four-year schools to set a tuition rate above the level assumed by the Legislature's operating budget.
None of Washington's other four-year universities appears likely to increase tuition beyond the budgeted amount. WSU's regents have already approved a tuition increase of 16 percent; when fees are added in, the cost of a year at the Pullman campus will be $10,798.
Western Washington University's board of trustees will vote on a 16 percent increase Friday. Central Washington University and The Evergreen State College are both considering 14 percent increases, and Eastern Washington University plans to raise tuition by 11 percent.
If the UW increases tuition beyond the amount budgeted by the Legislature, it would be required to plow a larger portion of tuition revenues back into financial aid, lessening the impact on lower-income and some middle-income students. With a 20 percent increase, the UW would have to set aside 5 percent of all tuition revenue, or about $17.2 million, to be used for financial aid.
Students said the increases will be difficult to absorb. Attendance already costs about $24,000 a year, including books and room and board.
"Twenty percent would be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of students," said undergraduate student-body president Madeleine McKenna. She noted that the UW doesn't know how burdensome previous tuition increases have been because half of all UW students don't fill out the federal financial-aid form that provides a complete picture of a family's financial resources.
But McKenna also said it's important to look at the impact of state budget cuts on class offerings. Setting tuition is "a balancing act between quality, access and affordability," she said.
Amira Davis, president of the student body at UW-Bothell, said students are working longer hours while going to school, or attending part time, to make up for two years of back-to-back tuition increases of 14 percent. "We are all taking this hit and suffering as students," she said.
Tuition is skyrocketing because the Legislature has dramatically cut funding to higher education. Over the last three years, the amount of money the UW receives from the state has fallen 50 percent. The UW has eliminated hundreds of positions, cut classes, increased class sizes and frozen faculty salaries for the last two years. Under the current budget, faculty salaries will be frozen for two more years.
A 20 percent increase would allow the UW to restore or increase hundreds of class offerings, and expand hours or reopen the school's writing and learning centers, said vice provost Paul Jenny, of the UW office of planning and budgeting.
In addition, Jenny outlined a proposal to the regents that about half of the money raised through the tuition increase be added to the financial-aid pot. That would raise enough money to cover the tuition increase for the neediest students and also provide enough to award grants of up to $4,000 for as many as 1,000 students, going beyond what the state required for financial aid and helping some middle-class students, Jenny said.
The board also looked at a 16 percent increase — the amount budgeted by the Legislature — and a 22 percent increase, which would raise tuition and fees to $10,737 a year.
"Nothing about tuition increases is good, and nothing about losing the quality of education is good," said Regents chairman Herb Simon. "At 20 percent, the middle class will get the biggest bang for the buck."
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or email@example.com
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