Lindsey Treffry | The Communicator
On Feb. 3, senators unanimously passed the Washington State Senate Bill 6562, giving Washington State University, Western Washington University, and the University of Washington greater tuition setting authority.
"Beginning with the 2011-12 academic year, reductions or increases in full-time tuition fees for resident undergraduates shall be determined annually by the governing boards of the state universities," the bill states. The bill allows the universities to raise tuition up to 14 percent in any given year so long as tuition increases do not exceed 9 percent over a rolling 15-year average.
"It's already hard to pay [tuition for a two-year college] and it's going to be difficult to pay for a four-year if tuition is doubled," said Nursing pre-major Kendra Reynolds.
According to Peter Sterr, the Vice President of Communications at the Washington Student Association (WSA), this means "tuition may raise 14 percent next year, 14 percent again the following year, and 14 percent again in 2012-13, before it is forced to retreat to single-digit increases." If tuition is raised by that amount every year, in eight years, tuition could double.
The WSA, a non-partisan corporation serving as a channel for student organizing and advocacy at public colleges, has worked to keep Bill 6562 from passing. On Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, the WSA organized students for class walkouts and rallies, Sterr said in an e-mail. Although unsuccessful, WSU had approximately 300 attendees at their rally, while UW brought about 300 students to Olympia to prevent the bill from passing.
According to WSA's Executive Director Mike Bogatay, there were five other bills discussed in relation to education. Of the five proposed, the only bill that did not pass required objective measurements for performance agreements between universities and the legislature. But a similar bill-- which remains in the House of Representatives, sets specific, objective standards for performance agreements.
"Students are just saying 'no,'" Bogatay said. "There are two pieces of legislation to change tuition policy in the House of Representatives that are supported by students."
These two bills if passed, establish a more deliberative approach for determining tuition rates. They ideally will consider each university's role, while keeping them financially accountable.
Without approval of these two bills, students should note the affects of Bill 6562.
Sterr said students should worry about that fact that the bill, "eliminates public oversight of tuition increases... students have little recourse if their tuition increases at the maximum levels." Students should also be weary of the fact that this bill takes another step towards the privatization of our public colleges and universities, Sterr said.
Although the bill doesn't affect two-year colleges, it is students who plan on transferring to WSU, UW, or WWU who will see the hike in prices. According to Sterr, if students want to take action against tuition raises, they need to press student governments or other advocates to take an active role in the cause. This can be done by connecting with WSA, writing letters to legislators, and rallying on campus.
"We need to show legislators that we are organized, can mobilize, and will turn out to vote in November," Sterr said.
As seen in Issue 41.7 of The Communicator