Because of hard work by Democratic budget negotiators, the compromise budget agreement voted on today will support higher education at a higher level than ever before. The budget will allow for a freeze in tuition to increase access and affordability for students, without causing major cuts to the quality of education offered by institutions.
“As we announced back in January, Senate Democrats have always made support for higher education one of our top priorities,” said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle and the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Higher Education Committee. “We knew that we needed to cut costs for students, but that it was equally important to make sure that we didn’t cut costs at the expense of the quality of education offered as well as access to needed classes, and we worked with our colleges and universities to find a solution that works for all parties.”
“I’m glad that we were able to come to a final budget agreement that ends the era of double-digit tuition increases,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. “This final budget is one that reflects months of work by Senate and House Democrats to find a way to fund a tuition freeze for our students without hurting the quality of education that they receive.”
The Democratic plan offered earlier in the session fully funded a tuition freeze, in line with the recommendation by the Council of Presidents. The Republican plan, in contrast, did not provide enough state support to pay for their tuition proposal and would have led to an overall cut in per-student funding, leading to cuts in class offerings. The Republican plan could have cost students more money overall if they would have to come back for 5th or 6th years to fulfill graduation requirements. As such, higher education stakeholders came out solidly against the Republican plan.
The final budget agreement will provide $163 million above maintenance level to pay for a tuition freeze this year. Our public universities and colleges will retain the flexibility to raise tuition, if necessary, for the 2014-15 school year. If such an increase does happen, it is expected to be minor.
“I believe that we need to do more to prevent runaway tuition increases in the future,” said Frockt. “Next year, we’ll be hard at work finding the revenue necessary to sustainably fund higher education while continuing to keep tuition as low as possible. Our students deserve that from us.”
“I believe that we’ve come to a final budget agreement that works for our colleges and universities, for our faculty and, most importantly, for our students,” said Kohl-Welles. “This kind of balanced approach, focusing on quality, access and affordability, is exactly what Democrats have been working for all session, and I’m glad to see a final budget that reflects that.”