Tuition cap welcomed with global challenge target

Gov. Chris Gregoire in her January State of the State address proposed a tuition cap for WSU and the University of Washington of 7 percent per year. She also proposed a 5 percent per year cap for other four-year state universities and a tuition freeze at the community colleges for the next two years.

WSU and the UW have embraced the proposal, which ties the cap on tuition increases to sustainable increases in state funding.

The tuition plan is part of the governor’s 2007-09 budget proposal. Gregoire’s budget would fund the WWAMI program, expansion of the nursing program, increases in high-demand enrollment and initiatives in agriculture and bio-products.

Karl Boehmke, WSU’s executive budget director, said the university is “very much in favor” of Gregoire’s proposal in that it aims to increase state funding levels over the long term. Her plan, Boehmke said, is based on the Washington Learns report, which compares Washington to seven other “global challenge states.”

Global challenge states are those in which international trade plays a dominant economic role and where higher education and research have been identified as critical factors to growth and vitality. Those states include Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, Virginia, New Jersey and California, as well as Washington.

The 2006 Washington Learns report recommends that state funding of higher education be increased over the next 10 years to a point where Washington ranks in the 6oth percentile compared to other “global challenge states.”

Boehmke noted that Washington’s funding levels are currently near the bottom among that group. Also of concern is the fact that Washington ranks last in terms of advanced degrees earned per capita and sixth in terms of bachelor’s degrees earned per capita.

Boehmke described Gregoire’s proposal as “realistic” in that the “state’s economy is currently strong and operating with a surplus.”

Whether or not proposals by Gregoire and Washington Learns will be enacted will be determined by the state Legislature over the next several weeks or months.

For more information on the Washington Learns report, see www.washingtonlearns.wa.gov/FinalReport.pdf

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