The soaring increase in tuition in Washington state the past few years has added debt to college students (and their parents). And the hikes, as high as 28 percent over a two-year period, have curbed access to higher education for some.
The situation is of concern to college and university officials who have been forced to jack up tuition to make up for the deep cuts in state subsidies as the Legislature has been cutting higher education spending year after year.
Washington State University has taken a stand against education inflation.
Late last week the WSU Board of Regents approved a proposal to limit a tuition increase this fall to two percent.
The move, which is certainly welcome news to students and their families, is risky.
The state Legislature has not yet approved the 2013-2014 budget, which means the university does not know how much state funding it will receive beginning in July.
WSU President Elson Floyd advised both the leadership of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office of the university’s intention to move forward in setting tuition for the coming school year, according to a WSU news release.
“This is really our attempt to announce to the public, and most importantly to students, what our tuition will be this fall,” Floyd said. “As a consequence of our semester system, the delay in developing a final state budget places us in a very difficult time frame.”
WSU is putting students first here. Students have to know now — if not before now — what the next school year will cost them. Most are earning money over the summer, seeking student loans or both.
The skyrocketing tuition has become a long-term problem. As tuition increases, the cash allocated for financial aid and grants has been used faster than expected. The Great Recession compounds the problem as no money is available to replenish the aid and grant programs.
As a result, less money is available for current and future students but tuition continues to rise.
It’s a vicious cycle.
WSU’s gutsy move is a signal it’s going to make every effort not to further burden students. The cycle isn’t broken, but it is slowed.
Ultimately, it is up to lawmakers to provide adequate funding for state-run universities and colleges.