May 28, 2011 in City

WSU students facing 16 percent tuition hike

School lost $108 million to state cuts
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington State University students face another tuition hike after deep funding cuts to higher education recently passed in the state Legislature.

The WSU board of regents is expected to approve a 16 percent tuition hike in a special meeting June 6.

The tuition increase would raise the annual tuition paid by a typical in-state undergraduate student to $9,374. Tuition for nonresident undergraduate and graduate students would increase 8 percent, to $20,652 and $22,830, respectively.

WSU President Elson Floyd expressed concern about the increase in a post on his blog, but said it was necessary to protect programs and prevent even larger deficits in the university’s budget.

“Unfortunately, to maintain our programs in the face of these budget cuts, we do not have any other option,” he wrote. “Even with the revenue from this increase, and with the expectation that we will admit the largest freshman class in our history in the fall, our university will be operating with fewer dollars in the upcoming biennium than we did in 2009-’11.”

The state budget, which includes $535 million in cuts to colleges and universities and is awaiting Gov. Chris Gregoire’s signature, reduces WSU’s state appropriation by about $108 million during the 2011-’13 biennium, said WSU spokesman Darin Watkins.

That represents a 26 percent reduction in the university’s current maintenance budget level and means that, over four years, the university will have seen a state appropriated budget reduction of 52 percent, or $231 million, he said.

University officials have not decided how they will bridge that 26 percent gap.

“We took substantial cuts in administration last time,” he said. “We took substantial cuts in a number of programs that had to be eliminated. You’re going to see a mixture of all of those things again.”

However, he said, “We really do need to wait until students, administrators and faculty are back on campus before we make any large programmatic cuts. We’re postponing any major decisions until the fall.”

Normally university officials have an idea earlier in the year how much in cuts they need to make, Watkins said, and hold public forums in March or April to discuss where those cuts should come from.

But, “the numbers were really such a moving target this time there wasn’t really any way to do any thoughtful discourse on what should happen,” he said. “It was difficult for us to know where things were eventually going to land.”

The next hike comes after a 14 percent tuition increase in the 2009-’10 school year and another 14 percent in 2010-’11.

The news came as a shock to WSU student Kurtis Fenton, 21, of Port Orchard, Wash., who will graduate after fall semester.

“I was surprised,” said Fenton, a wildlife ecology major. “Not happy. That’s going to be a hefty, hefty increase.”

Fenton said his parents help him out a little financially, but he is paying for school mostly with student loans. With his debt piling up, increased tuition costs and the difficulties he faces finding employment in a crippled job market, Fenton said he’s worried about his future.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of friends graduate and you don’t hear great things about the percentage of people that get jobs,” he said. “I’m definitely worried about getting a job and paying back loans.”

He said he understands the need to make cuts in light of the state’s and the university’s deficits, but expressed concern about their impact on the caliber of the education he is paying so much for.

“Obviously the money has got to come from somewhere, but it’s kind of discouraging as a student when tuition keeps going up and up, but they keep cutting classes in your major,” he said. “They’re laying off positions in different departments and combining classes, so I think the quality of education is going down, while the prices are going up.”

University of Washington in-state undergraduate students also are likely to face a 16 percent increase in the fall, according to UW’s Office of Planning and Budgeting. The board of regents will consider tuition increases at its June 9 meeting.


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