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January 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Public universities becoming increasingly less financially accessible

Privatizing public universities debases education, democracy

Jonathan Martin’s “Pulling the welcome mat on college” [Opinion, Jan. 19] is right on the mark. Our Legislature has given up on public higher education and is content to price a very large swath of our citizens out of the market. But the news is even worse, because what is happening at the University of Washington is happening at virtually every public, research-oriented university in the country.

The outcome, in effect, is that first-tier public universities like UW — California, Michigan, Virginia, etc. — have become or are in the process of becoming two separate and unequal universities. One of them is public and scandalously underfinanced, mostly for in-state undergraduates, although university administrations everywhere are furiously hustling out-of-state undergraduates, who pay far higher tuition than in-state students.

The other is top-tier, professional — law, medicine, business — on the one hand, and on the other oriented toward world-class scientific and medical research, increasingly financed with private money. In the three-decade-long rush to privatize very nearly everything, our public universities, with their enormous investment in affordable, quality education for everyone qualified, have been taken from us, devalued and readied for full privatization. That process debases both our education and, ultimately, our democracy.

--Edward Baker, Seattle

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