Governor unveils higher ed funding plan

Tomorrow (Weds.) President Gaudino will join the other baccalaureate presidents in a briefing by Gov. Gregoire on her higher education funding bill. This is the legislation that is the result of six months of work of a task force she appointed to come up with new approaches to funding higher education.

The bill is just a draft, but is expected to get an official bill number and a sponsor (or two) very soon.

Key parts of the bill include the following:

Part 1. Increasing degree completion. The bill directs institutions to increase degree completion by 27 percent between 2010 and 2018, abuot a third of which are to be in the fields of “science, which includes the health sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” At least 19 percent of the additional degrees are to go to “students who are low income or are the first in their families to attend college.”

Part 2. State funding and tuition linked. The bill establishes practice in statute: tuition shall be set in the budget, which establishes a firm link to state funding. The bill sets FY 2011 funding as a “floor” and allows institutions to raise tuition when state funding drops below this level. The pace of tuition increases is linked to tuition levels of the Global Challenge States, a group of state set as peers for the purposes of global economic competition and education investment.

Part 3. The Washington Pledge Scholarship. The governor proposes to establish a privately endowed scholarship of $1 billion by 2021. Eligibility requirements are residency and income below 125 percent of the state median, which is about $54,000 for a family of four (I think…I’ll ask Agnes about that). Contributions to the fund will earn a tax credit.

Part 4. More benchmarks. The bill sets up eight benchmarks institutions must use to demonstrate continuous improvement, from degree completion to retention. Each school also must report on how it is using “innovation” to meet enrollment demand efficiently.

Oddly, much of the bill is to be administered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which the governor has proposed to eliminate in another bill.

Of course there are many more details in the bill. When it gets a sponsor I’ll post a link so that you will be able to settle down for a good read later this week.

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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