Nearly 200 students at Eastern Washington University staged a protest rally Wednesday against a proposal to increase tuition next year.
“We are sick and tired of our voices not being heard,” student body President Josephine Opong told the rally.
“Has anyone ever asked us what we want?” she shouted into a megaphone.
“No,” cried the crowd, gathered on the steps of the Pence Union Building in Cheney.
The governor and state legislators are talking about a tuition increase of as much as 6 percent next year to pay for escalating costs of instruction.
Some of that money would help pay faculty salary increases.
“Ever since I’ve been here tuition has gone up each year,” Opong said.
In the 1986-87 school year, tuition at EWU was $1,212. It has climbed every year since to $2,256 now.
Chanting into her megaphone, “No more higher tuition,” Opong led a march across campus to Showalter Hall’s auditorium. Showalter Hall houses administrative offices.
Kathy Fleming, president of the union representing non-teaching employees at EWU, urged the students to contact legislators to oppose the tuition increases.
“Let the legislators know how you feel.”
Provost Flash Gibson said university administration is sympathetic to students, too.
“None of us want the tuition to go up,” he told the gathering. “We have no intention as an administration to suddenly gouge students.”
Gov. Mike Lowry is proposing giving colleges and university trustees and regents authority to raise tuition 6 percent a year for resident undergraduates and 10 percent for other students.
The tuition money would largely go for higher faculty salaries in the coming biennium.
Lawmakers have other proposals.
Sen. Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle, wants to limit tuition increases to the average annual increase in personal income, which is about 4 percent or 5 percent a year, and force the state to maintain its current level of tax funding of higher education.
Other tuition proposals are expected in the House.
For the tuition charged at EWU and Washington State University, Washington currently ranks 25th out of 50 states in the amount it charges resident undergraduate students.
WSU tuition is $2,907 a year. Community college tuition for resident undergraduates is $1,298 a year, and ranks at the national average.
The drive for a tuition increase stems from a continuing budget problem in higher education. The governor has asked for cuts of 2 percent at all institutions next year, but wants to pay faculty higher salaries.
A spending limit initiative will hold tax funding to a 10 percent increase over the next two-year budget period.
Higher education spending has fallen from 16 percent of the state general fund in the 1979-81 biennium to 11.2 percent in the current twoyear budget cycle.
Some college administrators say tuition must be kept as low as possible so higher education is accessible to the widest range of people.
Terry Brown, chief executive of the Community Colleges of Spokane, said the average family income of his students is $22,000 a year.
“Tuition is an issue not only for the kid coming out of high school, but also for single parents and displaced homemakers,” Brown said in a recent interview.
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