Republican gubernatorial candidate Norm Maleng on Monday said the state’s public colleges are in danger of falling into mediocrity.
During an appearance at Spokane Community College, Maleng said higher education is “the on-ramp to the American dream.”
But the amount of money spent on higher education in Washington has slipped from 16 percent of the state budget in 1985 to 11 percent today, he said.
Maleng, King County prosecutor since 1978, wants state colleges to claim a 14 percent slice of the budget by trimming spending on social services.
He said Democrats in Olympia - including one of his potential competitors in the governor’s race, state Sen. Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle - are responsible for letting the quality of higher education slip.
Officials are predicting a huge influx of high school graduates into state colleges in the next 14 years, as well as an increase in the number of older adults seeking degrees.
As a result, the state is going to have to build more college facilities, and existing colleges and universities are going to have to become more efficient, Maleng said.
Maleng said he supports the continuing expansion of Spokane’s Riverpoint Higher Education Park, which offers college-degree programs through Washington State and Eastern Washington universities.
Because higher education plays a critical role in training skilled workers and preparing people for careers, it is a fundamental part of the economy, Maleng said. “People are starting to realize the only security you have is what you know,” he said.
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