Pin It

Show Me the Money 

Where will public universities look if the state doesn’t have the cash?

click to enlarge Spokane Community College
  • Spokane Community College

Your mission: to raise the number of college graduates in Washington by almost 30 percent over the next eight years while the state budget continues to wither. Sound impossible?

This was the puzzle that Gov. Chris Gregoire presented to a higher-education funding task force last summer. As an added twist, she stipulated that many of the new graduates should come from middle- and low-income families.

The task force reported its recommendations to the governor last Monday. It didn’t sugarcoat higher education’s financial future.

“The issue is at what level the Legislature is going to continue to fund higher education,” says Paul Rosier, task force member and executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators. “We are probably going to go below a level that anyone is happy with.”

The task force recommends a search for private funding, as well as more autonomy for schools to raise tuition without limits set by the Legislature. Rosier, for one, doesn’t see much alternative to state universities raising tuition and notes that Washington’s state-funded higher-education system is one of the most efficient in terms of cost and outcomes in the United States.

“We’re well below the 60th percentile in what the state provides universities and what tuition is. Everyone feels that tuition is high, but we’re clear at the bottom when you use peer comparisons of tuition of our universities,” he says.

The proposed private-sector fund, called the Washington Pledge Scholarship, would aim to raise $1 billion in the next decade to help fund college education for low- and middle-income students. While the report recommends offering tax exemptions to businesses that donate, it also suggests the credit be delayed until 2014, contingent upon Washington’s economy picking up.

“Clearly we’re in the middle of a budgetary crisis,” says Maud Daudon, a task force member and the president and CEO of Seattle Northwest Securities. “It’s not the time to think about tax breaks for businesses affiliated with charitable donations, but … in better times it could be a great investment.”

School funding looks to be a big discussion during this legislative session, which began on Monday. Aldo Melchiori, coordinator of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, says there is talk among senators about tuition-setting authority, though no bill has been written yet.

The task force’s other recommendations focused on efficiency in Washington’s universities, which could mean finding programs to cut. Rosier explained that universities need to determine which programs attract students and offer productive outcomes.

“Do those programs lead to productive lives for kids, not only economically but in terms of kids finding the things in life that they enjoy?” he asks.

Efficiency would start at the high school level by identifying which Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes that colleges will accept for credit — allowing students to complete a college degree in three years.

It’s up to lawmakers now to figure out the details of a higher-education funding bill.

“It’s going to be tough no matter what,” says Rosier.

“We’re just in a financial situation that is going to take some time to dig out of.”

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • 'Seek and Destroy'
  • 'Seek and Destroy'

    In his final days as state superintendent of public instruction, Randy Dorn keeps shouting on behalf of schools. Has anyone listened?
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • The Ripple Effect
  • The Ripple Effect

    Education: WSU looks to take full advantage of the new medical school opening in Spokane
    • Aug 1, 2016
  • More »

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Chelsea Finger

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment


election 2016

green zone


trail mix

Readers also liked…

  • Priced Out
  • Priced Out

    Spokane rents aren't as bad as in some other cities, but tell that to people spending more than half of their income on housing
    • May 6, 2015
  • The Hunt for Pat and Jason
  • The Hunt for Pat and Jason

    Two Coeur d'Alene families haven't given up their search, even though local law enforcement did
    • May 27, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation