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Washington state's public universities and colleges are making the best of a lousy financial situations.
Enrollment is up at the University of Washington and Washington State University despite deep cuts to state subsidies and double-digit increases in tuition over the past four years.
This has essentially been accomplished, particularly at the UW, by admitting more international and out-of-state students who pay three times the tuition of state residents. The extra cash has allowed higher enrollments.
The UW has about 1,000 more international students this school year but also found room for an additional 250 in-state freshmen. The UW in-state enrollment is up another 550 at its Tacoma and Bothell branch campuses. WSU is up 350 students at Pullman and its three branch campuses -- Spokane, Richland and Vancouver. And Eastern Washington University in Cheney is up 350 students.
The schools should be commended for finding a way to let more Washingtonians have access to higher education while also balancing the budget.
Unfortunately, this isn't a long-term solution to adequately fund higher education. This plan is merely a Band-Aid.
The UW was forced into this action by the Legislature. Lawmakers ordered the UW to enroll at least 4,000 in-state freshmen after hearing from parents whose children were not admitted to the UW even with 4.0 GPAs and high test scores.
Lawmakers did not provide any extra cash to meet their mandate, which forced the move to higher paying students.
But let's not forget that these are state schools run by the state government. They were built to serve those who live and pay taxes in Washington state.
Bringing in some international and out-of-state students is fine, but it is critical to educate people who will remain in Washington to work and make the economy grow.
Higher education can't continue down its current path. The quality of education will suffer and more Washingtonians will find higher education unaffordable.
We continue to believe the higher education funding problem can be solved only by establishing a dedicated funding source. If more money than was budgeted was collected from the dedicated higher education taxes, that money would then be set aside for future needs.