Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bill addressing differential tuition under consideration in Senate

In 2011, the Legislature passed a law allowing the state’s higher education institutions to charge differential fees for specific, high-cost courses such as engineering. These differential fees would not be required of all students.
The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, which is administered by the HECB, published a short background paper Wednesday on the impact a new differential fee bill, SSB 6399, could have on the GET program.
Under existing law, tuition consists of building fees and operating fees charged to all students registering at state colleges and universities. Under the GET program, a family’s decision to purchase 100 GET units today guarantees a year of future resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington. The state-mandated fees that are covered by GET are those charged to all students. This original GET guarantee is honored for all participants. SSB 6399 would make it clear that the term operating fee does not apply to differential fees that are unique to specific programs of study.
The HECB supports the legislation to ensure the continued solvency of the GET program. The language of SSB 6399 is in line with the current GET statute and GET’s Master Agreement. Increasing the amount of fees GET is responsible for would result in a substantial increase in GET’s unit price, putting college savings further out of reach for thousands of families.
SSB 6399 was passed by the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee Wednesday and sent to the Ways and Means Committee. The substitute included amendments requiring institutions to consult with student associations before establishing differential fees and further defines such fees.

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