Tuition at Eastern Washington University could go up for the third year in a row, as many as 10 degree programs could be eliminated and about 20 employees could lose their jobs to bridge a $24.9 million budget gap.
This cut is the most recent in a series of spending cuts since the economic downturn began.
“This represents a more than 45 percent reduction in state funding to Eastern over the last three-plus years,” said Dave Meany, university spokesman. EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo adds: “But we are trying to transform the university so that our primary mission of educating students continues to be at the highest level possible and students graduate in a timely fashion and at the lowest cost possible.”
Arévalo will propose an 11 percent tuition increase for 2011-’12 to the university’s board of trustees. Graduate degree programs with low enrollment in education and social sciences are on the chopping block for the upcoming school year, but which ones are still being decided. Some undergraduate degree programs will be considered for elimination in 2012-’13.
At the same time, the university “will be investing in the consolidation of academic support programs, the launching of an Eastern virtual campus and the expansion of our community engagement efforts” to create efficiency, Meany said.
EWU’s announcement Monday of the proposed tuition increase came just hours after Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill allowing state universities to set tuitions without state approval.
Tuition increases ranging from 11 to 16 percent were expected following deep cuts to higher education contained in the 2011-2013 state budget passed last month. The transfer of authority to schools is meant to offset about $500 million in cuts to colleges and universities over the next two years.
Arévalo could ask the board of trustees to approve a higher tuition increase, but he’s “had a number of discussions with them, and their interest has been in keeping the tuition increase as low as possible. This is about the lowest I can recommend without having to cut more degree programs or student support programs.”
Meanwhile Monday, Washington State University’s board of regents approved the proposed 16 percent tuition increase for their students.
For both colleges, 2011-’12 marks the third year of tuition increases as a means to address reductions in state funding.
EWU’s tuition has increased by 14 percent each of the past two academic years. But there’s also been cuts, including a reduction in administration, the elimination of eight degree programs, the consolidation of the information technology programs and reductions in the student affairs programs.
EWU’s proposed tuition increase will be the lowest of any public university in the state, including the community colleges, Arévalo said. But he worries about access to higher education: “It becomes harder whether it’s a 2 percent increase or an 11 percent increase; it’s harder for kids and parents to afford it.”