Our current situation: A few years ago, to free up more money for budget increases, the legislature shifted from the state paying 60% of higher education costs and student tuition covering 40%, to the state paying 40% and tuition covering 60%. The financial burden for the poorest students was offset by increased student aid. So now we are 1st in the nation for student aid, but a pitiful 49th in the nation for overall spending. The result is that 1/3 of UW students pay no tuition or fees and 1/4 of WSU students pay no tuition or fees, with similar numbers at our other state schools.
Meanwhile, the increased tuition for those who don’t get the financial aid is resulting in the average middle class student graduating with nearly $30,000 in debt. Despite saying that we want our “best and brightest” in our universities, the state’s budget seems to say that our only priority is getting our poor into our universities. For those who receive the state need grant, only a 2.0 GPA is required to maintain it.
The state has already invested in our children’s education through high school. Families need the state to keep tuition reasonable, so our children can complete their higher education here in Washington, where we have jobs that require those degrees waiting for them, and they can start their own families.
My solution: Our focus needs to be on those bright, middle class kids who are struggling to pay for college. Fortunately, with the formation of the Senate Majority Coalition, for the first time in decades, tuition rates decreased! Again, including both parties in the budget process results in a better budget. And I support raising the GPA requirement for the state need grant, so our money is invested in those who work for it and are more likely to graduate, making our investment worth it.
Our current situation: 27,000 students are eligible for the State Need Grant but do not receive anything because those grants are unfunded.
My solution: Faced with the high cost of tuition at such schools as the University of Washington, our neighbors make the choice every year to send their kids to Green River or another community college for their first two years, saving many thousands of dollars, so they can afford to finish at a four year university. Instead of allowing State Need Grant recipients to receive the expensive, full University of Washington tuition for all four years, we should limit their grant to the community college rate for the first two years. With the saved money, we can provide a State Need Grant to 8000 more students every year at no additional cost to the taxpayers. And each college graduate will still receive the same diploma from the four year college.