Led by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus today unveiled a comprehensive plan that would bring down the costs of higher education for students, increase state spending on public universities and community colleges, and tie additional funding to higher-education institutions’ performance.
“In the past decade college students have been hit over and over with increasing tuition costs as a result of decreasing state support,” said Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “If our state is going to be a competitor in the global economy, we have to stop expanding government on the backs of college students and start reinvesting in higher education.”
The “Ten-Three-Fifty” plan will increase state support and lower student costs by:
- Increasing state funding in public universities and community colleges by 10 percent by more than $300 million to a level of $3 billion for the 2013-2015 biennium;
- Immediately reducing the cost of in-state tuition by 3 percent;
- Allocating $50 million in new performance funding for four-year colleges based on specific metrics: the number of undergraduate high-demand STEM degrees; the average time it takes to complete an undergraduate degree; freshman retention; low-income population; and space utilization.
- Expanding the state need grant by 7 percent to serve an additional 4,600 students.
By lowering the cost of tuition, Baumgartner explained, the proposal has the added benefit of eliminating the Guaranteed Education Tuition program’s $631 million unfunded liability, producing a surplus of $421 million.
Sen. Barbara Bailey, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said the state has been going in the wrong direction for many years by making higher education unaffordable for students and families.
“It’s about time we did something right for Washington’s hardworking middle-class families,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “This plan will not only make higher ed more affordable, it will stabilize the GET program so that families can continue investing in their children’s future education. This is a win for our students, it’s a win for our families, and it is a great opportunity for our institutions of higher learning to receive incentivized funding based on outcomes.”
MCC members noted that the plan’s effect increases total state budget spending on higher ed to $3.03 billion, making it a small price in exchange for the economic benefit of building a highly-skilled workforce.
“This is a win for the state of Washington,” Baumgartner added. “We desperately need highly-trained individuals to fill jobs in our changing economy. Investing in a skilled workforce is the best thing that we can do for our economy, making this proposal a real value for the state.”