Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Proposed Senate budget includes up to 16 percent tuition increases

The proposed Senate state operating budget released Tuesday would appropriate a total of $617.5 million less to the state’s public higher education institutions than is needed to continue the current level of programs and activities (maintenance-level funding).
It would allow the institutions to make up for some of this cut by increasing tuition significantly in each year of the 2011-13 biennium.
The Senate would cut $200.3 million (14.4%) from the maintenance-level budget of the community and technical colleges, and $417.3 million (29.8%) from the six baccalaureate institutions. To offset these reductions, the state would allow the institutions to raise tuition from 11 to 16% each year of the biennium.
Proposed annual tuition increases in the Senate budget:
  • 16% at the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Western Washington University
  • 14% at Central Washington University and The Evergreen State College
  • 12% at the Community and Technical Colleges
  • 11% at Eastern Washington University
These increases are larger than those proposed by the House budget, which would allow annual tuition increases of:
  • 13% at the UW, WSU and WWU
  • 11.5% at CWU, EWU and TESC
  • 11% at the Community and Technical Colleges
A Senate budget summary concludes that overall support for higher education would be greater under its budget than it would in either the House or Governor’s proposed budgets. It reaches this conclusion by eliminating what it characterizes as overstated tuition revenue from each of those budgets: ($74.4 million - House) and ($52.3 million - Governor). A table in the budget summary provides a comparison.
SB 5915, which has been advanced with the budget but on which a floor vote has not been held, would allow the baccalaureate institutions substantial flexibility to set their own tuition rates during a six-year period from 2013 to 2019. Institutions would be required to negotiate performance contracts with the HECB and the Office of Financial Management if they plan to increase tuition by specified amounts. A more detailed look at SB 5915 was posted earlier in the HECB Legislative Report. The bill received a hearing last week in the Senate Ways & Means committee.
Unlike the House budget, the Senate’s proposed 2011-13 budget would not suspend the State Work Study program, but would reduce funding by permanently discontinuing non-resident student eligibility and further increasing the required employer share of wages (to 80% from for-profit entities and 48% for non-profit entities).
The Senate also would reduce State Need Grant funding by aligning increases in awards given to private institutions with their average annual tuition increase experience of 3.5 percent per year.
Like the House budget, new awards under a number of smaller student financial aid programs would be suspended in 2011-13.  Additional higher education savings contained in the Senate budget proposal would be realized through various administrative efficiencies in the community and technical college system, by charging some Running Start students tuition, and by eliminating the HECB.  A proposal to eliminate the HECB and transfer its responsibilities to two new state agencies is contained in 2SSB 5182, is on the Senate floor calendar.

Monday, April 11, 2011

House passes budget bill containing cuts to higher education, financial aid programs

The House budget bill passed on a 53-43 vote on Saturday would cut higher education operating funds by $472 million in the 2011-13 biennium, but would authorize public colleges and universities to offset $379 million of that amount through tuition increases.
ESHB 1087 now goes to the Senate, where a new budget proposal is expected to be released as early as tomorrow. 
The House version passed Saturday also would suspend some student financial aid programs, including the State Work Study program. However, it would add money to the State Need Grant (SNG) program to offset the impact of tuition increases on SNG recipients. The HECB has created a web page comparing budget proposals and how they would affect student financial aid programs.  
The Olympian today published a deeper look at higher education funding issues during the current legislative session.