UW regents approve biggest-ever tuition increase
Tuition and fees for in-state undergrads at the University of Washington will jump by 20 percent, to $10,574 this fall, the school's Board of Regents decided Thursday.
Seattle Times higher education reporter
The University of Washington raised tuition and fees by the largest dollar amount in the school's history Thursday, hiking tuition for in-state undergraduates by nearly $2,000.
At the same time, the school announced it will be doing "significant layoffs" to try to blunt the impact of a $106 million cut in state funding this year.
"Some folks are getting pink slips as soon as tomorrow," said Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the UW.
The school's Board of Regents voted to raise in-state undergraduate tuition by 20 percent. Including mandatory fees, a year at the UW will cost $10,574 this fall, up from $8,700 last year.
The university will put a large chunk of the increase in tuition revenue into financial aid, in effect helping students who qualify for aid with money from students who do not. The school will increase its financial-aid money for in-state undergraduates by 45 percent, or $12 million.
But many students said they don't agree with that strategy.
"The best form of financial aid is low tuition," said Conor McLean, president of the Associated Students of the UW, who characterized the increase as "drastic."
About 25 students came to the 9 a.m. meeting, even though school is out for the summer. Regents don't typically take input from the public during meetings, but chairman Herb Simon opened the floor to student comments that were impassioned, angry and occasionally tearful.
Several students said they're concerned that the regents board — made up of successful entrepreneurs and business people — doesn't understand that an increase of nearly $2,000 annually can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out.
"We're not in the same boat; we're not in the same ocean," said Helen Gebreamlak, a senior. "This tuition increase shows you are not with us. It's really disappointing."
"It's an absolute travesty what's happening," said senior Peter Gallagher, to a burst of applause. "We don't want higher aid and higher tuition — we want lower tuition."
Regent Sally Jewell said the board spent hours lobbying the Legislature for less-severe cuts. "The assumption that this board of regents doesn't care is quite inappropriate," said Jewell. "None of us like this."
Regent Frances Youn, the only member of the board who is also a student, called it a very difficult decision, but said, "I feel like I don't have another choice."
Most of the 10 regents attended the special meeting through a phone conference call; just three attended in person. The tuition increase passed unanimously.
Tuition is skyrocketing because the Legislature has dramatically cut funding to higher education as state revenue has fallen during the economic downturn. Over the past three years, the amount of money the UW receives from the state has fallen by half.
The state now pays for about 30 percent of the cost of an education at the UW, compared with about 80 percent in 1990 — a difference that Paul Jenny, vice provost, described as a "cataclysmic shift in funding."
The UW has cut or eliminated about 900 positions since 2009, and eliminated hundreds of classes. Along with increasing financial aid, the tuition increase will help restore or increase hundreds of class offerings, and expand hours or reopen the school's writing and learning centers.
But the tuition increases won't change the need for further layoffs.
The UW — like all state agencies — is required by the Legislature to take a 3 percent salary reduction, which totals a little more than $11 million. The UW has decided to keep salary levels frozen, and take the reduction by eliminating positions.
The number of actual layoffs will vary depending on salary level, said spokesman Bob Roseth, but the last time the UW made cuts of this size, it laid off or eliminated positions for about 200 to 250 people. Many of the new cuts will come from midlevel management, which may mean fewer jobs lost, but from higher-paid positions, Roseth said.
The UW has about 20,000 staff and 3,800 faculty members. No faculty positions are expected to be cut.
One student, Andrew Lewis, said he hoped administrators and students could work more closely to find ways to reduce costs. Lewis is government-relations director of the Associated Students of UW, the student governing body.
"Students are willing to share the burden, but part of this is going to have to come from administrative cuts and administrative overhead," he said.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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