5-to-20 percent tuition cut in higher education proposed in Washington State

Spearheading an effort to reduce the burden of rising tuition at four-year universities, the Washington State Legislature has proposed cuts in tuition between 15-to-20 percent and reducing the cost of tuition at community colleges by 5 percent.

The 29 June, two-year budget approved by the state Legislature awaits approval Governor Jay Inslee’s signature.

State Sen. John Braun, one of the original sponsors of the bill, called it a “meaningful reset” for tuition in a state that, during the recession, raised the price of going to college more than almost any other state. “It’s a great deal for students and middle-class families that put up with 34 percent tuition growth,” said the Centralia Republican. Tuition at four-year universities went up 34 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past five years — much higher than the national average increase of 17 percent.

Interim UW President Ana Mari Cauce praised the Legislature for reversing “the long-term trend of shifting the burden of paying for college from the state to students and their families.”

Despite a prospective budget showdown, one which could include a potential shutdown of the state government, the issues causing the deadlock appear unrelated to proposed tuition cuts.

“There’s a whole new generation of people with student debt right now, and state lawmakers are starting to recognize that,” said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “There is a push to make college more affordable.”

Under this plan, a student’s tuition cost at the University of Washington would drop $500 for 2015 and an additional $1,000 for the fall term of 2016.

With student debt exceeding one-trillion dollars, this budget proposal is welcome relief.  In Washington State alone, the average student debt hovers at $25,000.  Nationwide, student debt leads total non-home debt, exceeding credit cards, auto loans and Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).

Between 2004 and 2014, borrowers for college tuition soared by 92%.  Of all current student-debt holders, 39% owe less than $10,000; 28% owe between $10,001 and $25,000; and 18% owe between $25,001 and $50,000.  The remaining 12% owe $50,001 to above $200,000.

Colleges and universities closely follow borrowers eager for a college education.  Typically, these same universities and colleges raise tuition ahead of the students with the knowledge both borrowers and those with the means to pay tuition will pay tuition costs. A predatory tactic, it appears sensible for lawmakers to intercede and cut tuition.

[Seattle Times] [Washington Post]