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Eye On Olympia

Tuition hikes: college officials suggest that 14 percent more a year isn’t so bad…

TVW’s Niki Sullivan reports that Terry Teale, executive director of the Council of Presidents (meaning college presidents), asked the Senate budget committee yesterday to let the state’s college hike tuition by 14 percent a year.

The Senate has proposed a 7 percent increase a year, which is the current maximum. The House would raise that to 10 percent a year. Neither, so far, is suggesting 14 percent.

Teale argues that the increase would actually cost less than forcing students to tack on an extra quarter or semester to get into classes that are too crowded due to budget cuts.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington’s planning and budget office has put together an analysis of the effect of 14 percent tuition increases on the net costs paid by students. (At UW, a 14 percent increase would mean $875 more a year.)

The short form: “Because of increased financial aid and increased federal tax credits, students with a family income below $160,000 would see no increase in net costs.”

But here’s why a huge tuition increase would be hard for lawmakers: parents have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition plan, which lets you prepay now — plus a significant surcharge — for college credits your kid will use years from now.

In other words, if the state hikes tuition 28 percent over the next two years, it’s akin to increasing the value of all those prepaid credits the same amount. This is especially true considering the fact that you don’t have to just use the credits in Washington; you can take the value of the account and use it at virtually any college.

One senator mentioned this in yesterday’s hearing, according to Sullivan:

But Sen. Rodney Tom told the higher education advocates that the math didn’t work out for the state — specifically, it requires the state to raise the liability on the GET (tuition guarantee) program by more than $100 million.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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