The Washington State University board of regents Friday approved a 14 percent increase in resident undergraduate tuition for each of the next two academic years.
Students will pay about $900 more next year. University officials say increases in financial aid and tax credits will offset the tuition increase for most families.
The 6-1 vote by the regents, who met at WSU’s Riverpoint campus in Spokane, came a week after WSU President Elson Floyd announced a budget plan that correctly assumed the board would approve the full increase allowed by legislative budget writers in their just completed session.
“Even with the tuition hike, we will be $54 million short over the two years,” said Francois X. Forgette, chairman of the board of regents. “We have to play the hand in front of us.”
Only the student regent, Derick En’Wezoh, voted against the increase, which will bring resident undergraduate tuition and fees to $7,088 in the coming academic year.
Legislative budget cuts to WSU also were offset by more than $15 million in federal stimulus funds, but Floyd still has to cut nearly 10.4 percent from the university’s biennial budget.
He will do so by eliminating some programs, consolidating other programs, leaving 165 positions unfilled and laying off 206 of WSU’s 6,200 employees.
The administration said every 1 percentage-point increase in tuition will protect about 20 jobs for faculty and staff. Provost Warwick Bayly said increasing tuition was preferable to cutting courses, which would have made earning an undergraduate degree take longer and even more expensive.
Bayly provided regents with charts showing that WSU tuition was the lowest among Pac-10 universities and a little above the median for similar land-grant universities nationwide.
The administration said increases in financial aid and an expected expansion of federal education tax credits will offset the tuition hikes so that only families making more than $160,000 a year would be affected.
However, at least one family disagreed. Den Bowker, who works as an information systems manager at WSU in Pullman, said his son would not be able to realize his goal of attending the university in 2010.
“My wife and I both work, and our collective incomes will not allow for our son to receive financial aid. But we do not make enough to pay for his tuition at WSU now that this tuition increase has occurred,” Bowker said.
A report by the Washington Student Lobby says that students who receive state need-based grants still end up taking out loans averaging $6,800 a year, and that middle-income families have no financial aid options other than loans.
“There are so many programs for low-income families, and the high-income folks seem not to worry about the increases as much,” Bowker said. “Meanwhile, folks in the middle seem to get stuck in more ways than one.”
Bowker said he and his wife, who graduated in the 1990s, are still paying off their student loans. They don’t want their son to face the same long-term payments.