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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

Bill to toss out limits on tuition increases, new study of effects of a 14 percent tuition hike…

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, this morning introduced HB 2344, which would do away with the existing 7 percent limit on tuition increases at the state's four-year colleges.

Under the bill, lawmakers would set tuition levels every two years when they write the budget.

Haigh suggests that higher tuition is better than the $700 million in higher ed budget cuts proposed in the House budget. College officials have said that that would mean thousands of layoffs and would force many students to stay in school for a semester or a year more in order to get into classes needed to graduate.

"We cannot afford to choose between quality and access," she said in a statement. "The demand for higher education is higher than ever, and the need for a highly educated workforce is growing. We are not doing right by students when we close the door to a college dream, and we are not doing right by our state when we cut the flow of educated workers into our workforce."

(Side note: Committee staffer Debbie Driver's bill report, by the way, has an excellent breakdown of tuition increase limits over the past 8 years in Washington. The short form: they've fluctuated wildly, from 3.6 percent (2000-2001) to 16 percent for the biggest schools during the last state budget crisis in 2002-2003.)

As if in response, the Economic Opportunity Institute also happened to issue this policy brief this morning. Written by Gabriel Nishimura, it blasts lawmakers idea of a high-tuition, high-financial-aid model for the state's colleges. Among the findings:

-sticker shock from high tuition drives away low-income and minority students,
-top students are more likely to go to private colleges instead,
-quality drops as schools shift around money to try to compensate for the high tuition costs,
-and the financial aid is heavy on loans that students are saddled with upon graduation.

There's a lot of good data in the report. Among the facts cited: the average University of Washington undergraduate today walks away with a degree and $16,481 in debt.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.