Seattle PI blog: WA a bottom dweller in higher ed support

Washington gets a ranking that will rankle in a new rating of state support for higher education issued by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

In a year that saw “historic cuts in state operating support for four year public universities,” Washington was one of four states making the deepest cuts — $639 million to be exact.

“There was wide variation, with North Dakota providing the largest increase, at 6.8 percent, and New Hampshire, which witnessed an astonishing 48 percent cut in state appropriations to its public colleges and universities,” the AASCU reported.

Nationally, amidst the Great Recession — with newly elected conservative regimes in key statehouses — the collective average change for states was a 6.1 percent decrease in funding for colleges and universities.

“Thirteen states witnessed double-digit decreases:  Following New Hampshire with the most severe reductions were Arizona (-24 percent), California (-23 percent), Washington (-23 percent), Colorado (-21 percent) Pennsylvania (-18 percent), Michigan (-15 percent), Nevada (-15 percent), North Carolina (-14 percent), Oregon (-13 percent), Ohio (-11 percent), Wisconsin (-11 percent) and South Dakota (-10 percent),” the AASCU added.

A trio of Western states — oil-rich Alaska (+3.1 percent), Wyoming (+1.2 percent)  and Hawaii (+.5 percent) managed to increase support for colleges and universities.

The report noted that Washington and other states have given universities “institutional flexibility” and “wider authority” — meaning they can sharply raise tuition in order to cover declining state support.

State support for Washington’s four-year public colleges is at approximately the dollar level it was two decades ago.

The cost of college has rapidly shifted toward tuition, more rapidly even than California.  But Washington is part of a national trend that has students paying more, working harder at outside jobs, and often unable to get courses they need to graduate in four years.

“The upcoming academic year will witness another round of higher-than-average tuition rate increases at public colleges and universities around the country, as these institutions struggle to offset major funding reductions that have taken place in many states,” the AASCU reported.

“In-state tuition and fee increases will continue their multi-year upward spike, which saw rates at public four-year universities increase an average 6.5 percent in 2009-10 and 7.9 percent in 2010-11, according to College Board data.”

Washington’s increases have been higher than the national average.

And, predicts the AASCU, tuition price increases for the 2011-12 academic year “will again be double or triple Consumer Price Index increases in percentage terms” — with double digit increases in states like Washington “that have enacted the most drastic funding cuts.”


Posted in Strange Bedfellows by Joel Connelly