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Eye On Olympia

Higher ed: Cut us and it’ll cost ya…

Go to any budget committee in Olympia and it will quickly become apparent that the near-universal argument for anyone seeking state money is this:

“Spend on this worthy program now. You’ll save money down the road.”

At the moment, some of the bigger voices in this chorus come from the state’s colleges. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday released a report saying, in essence, that the colleges should be spared severe cuts because they’re so valuable. It’s title: “The Benefits of Investing in Higher Education: A Return on Investment.”

The board, recalling previous downturns, is clearly trying to head off deep cuts combined with big tuition hikes.

Eollege-educated people earn more money, pay more taxes, commit less crime, volunteer more and vote more, the HEC Board notes. Parents without a college degree, it says, use food stamps and welfare more. The colleges also “serve as incubators for growth and innovation” and provide a steady supply of trained workers, the report says.

Instead of cuts, the study suggests that the state should put more money into colleges now. The federal government, through the G.I. Bill, poured money and students into schools in 1946, at a time when the nation feared a fall into recession.

And it’s not just the graduating students. The report pointedly notes that Eastern Washington University’s payroll, for example, means $77 million in spending in Spokane County. (2004 figures.)


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

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