Dear Commons Community,
The rarity of a public-college tuition cut became a reality this year in Washington State, where lawmakers approved a reduction for state residents over the next two years. At some institutions, the price tag will fall by one-fifth for in-state undergraduate students. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):
“Every campus will see a 5 percent cut this year, and for 2016-17, students enrolled at four-year colleges and universities will see tuition fall by an additional 10 or 15 percent. Lawmakers also will tie tuition levels to the state’s median family income starting in 2017 in an effort to keep college costs down in the future. (Some campuses are raising tuition for nonresidents and graduate students, although the increases vary and are generally small.)
The state’s college officials were cautious about a tuition cut for several months; their support was contingent on the state’s backfilling the millions of dollars in lost revenue with additional financing. But once lawmakers fulfilled that promise with $200 million in state funds over the next two years, college leaders backed the final plan, which the Legislature passed in June.
Given the increasing public attention on college affordability and student-loan debt, including in the 2016 presidential race, Washington State’s move has generated buzz among lawmakers and administrators nationwide. Still, several volatile factors had to align at once — including finances and politics — for Washington’s tuition cut to take place.
In some states grappling with budget deficits, such a reduction is probably out of reach for now, and tuition cuts might not be sustainable in Washington State or elsewhere without new taxes or an economic boom. Some observers also assert that extra state funds should be used as financial aid for low-income and middle-class students, not wealthier students who can already afford to pay.”
Congratulations to the lawmakers in Washington for their bold action. They are an example for the rest of the country.