Alina Shanin will be three classes away from a degree in anthropology at the end of spring term, but the 21-year-old is concerned tuition increases coming this fall could make it impossible for her to finish.
“This school year’s increases have already made it hard for me – I work to put myself through school,” said Shanin, who works as the managing editor at the Eastern Washington University newspaper and is a Russian interpreter for the Department of Social and Health Services. “I was trying to avoid going into more debt, but this year has set me back about $5,000, which I wasn’t expecting.”
This fall, tuition will increase at Washington’s public universities for the second year in a row to help counter state budget cuts. At Eastern and Washington State universities, it will again rise by 14 percent, officials said. Meanwhile, the public institutions face millions in additional cuts to their 2010-’11 budgets.
The state spending plan approved earlier this week by legislators means that WSU will need to cut an additional $13.5 million from its budget; EWU will need to trim more than $5 million on top of the millions that already have been cut.
Statewide, the cuts to public higher education amounted to $68.2 million, according to the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board. All of the public higher education reductions were made as a result of the projected $2.8 billion state revenue shortfall.
For EWU, “the cuts will be realized, in part, from savings such as the ongoing hiring freeze and cutbacks on travel,” said spokesman Dave Meany.
University President Rodolfo Arévalo wrote in an e-mail, “Although we are hopeful we will not have to eliminate any positions as the result of this cut, the economic uncertainties which continue to plague the state make it difficult to say for sure if we will avoid more reductions to our workforce.”
WSU also is looking to save by trimming personnel costs. The school offers two retirement incentive programs, said Joan King, executive director of planning and budget. In addition, there will be the normal retirements, which is usually hundreds of positions per year.
“All vacant positions will be reviewed,” King said. Because there may be more retirements in some areas than others, some of these vacated positions will have to be refilled, but a majority will be left open for salary savings.
“We do not, at this point, anticipate pay reductions or program closures,” King added.
Outside of tuition increases, the universities have each tried to make budget cuts that had the least impact on students.
However, Eastern experienced larger class sizes, Meany said.
Meany admits there has been some “concern around campus about college being less affordable.” He’s predicting a second year of record enrollment in the fall because Eastern is one of the most affordable state universities.
“Our freshman and transfer applications for next year are already up by more than 5 percent,” Meany said.
“In fact, we will host several hundred prospective students on campus this weekend for an open house.”
Shanin, who already has a degree in journalism, said tuition costs were factored into her recent university choice.
“I wanted to go to the University of Washington, but I couldn’t afford it. This was the best thing I could do, but it definitely has not been easy.”