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College Tuition To Rise About 4 Percent But Average Student Won’t Pay More Than $3,145 Per Year

Tuition at Washington’s public colleges will rise by an average of 4 percent in each of the next two school years, and 5,258 new enrollment slots will be created, negotiators announced Tuesday.

For the first time, tuition will top $20,000 a year for some students - non-residents who want to attend graduate professional schools, such as the University of Washington medical school.

For the average student, though, tuition won’t exceed $3,145. In-state community college students will top out at $1,405.

The House backed away from its demand for a 5 percent annual tuition increase and for diversion of some state financial-aid money into the work-study program. Earlier, the House had given up on giving college trustees authority to boost tuition by as much as 15 percent a year.

“I think students should be happy the Legislature has taken a more conservative view of tuition increases,” said Steve Hurley, student legislative liaison at Spokane Falls Community College.

The final agreement was a big victory for Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle, who had held firm on requiring state matching funds for any tuition increases.

The House originally proposed subtracting all of the new tuition dollars from the tax-supported higher education budget. Rinehart insisted that there be no offset and that, in fact, the tax subsidy be increased every time tuition goes up.

To do otherwise gradually would erode higher education’s share of the state budget and shift an ever-greater burden onto the backs of students and their parents, she said.

The Senate also rejected local-option tuition increases.

Students said lawmakers still must come up with a plan to maintain the quality of higher education while making room for more students in coming years.

Jessie Harris, incoming student body president at Washington State University, said students were hoping the full Senate plan would be adopted, including its guarantees for future increases in spending.

But he said the compromise “is the best we could hope for.”

The House plan could have resulted in a 30 percent increase in tuition over two years, Harris said.

Professor Jeff Corkill at Eastern Washington University echoed the students’ sentiments. “That compromise is as good as we could get,” he said.

Rinehart and Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Al Bauer, D-Vancouver, were delighted Tuesday the House had agreed to the Senate’s higher education budget and tuition policy. Bauer said, however, that it’s just “a two-year fix” and that a long-term strategy for supporting colleges must be found.

House Higher Education Committee Chairman Don Carlson, R-Vancouver, said he is pleased that lawmakers have begun addressing the need for 50,000 new enrollment slots as the “baby boom echo” youths reach college age in the next decade.

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