Representative Reuven Carlyle has introduced a revised version of the governor’s sweeping higher education funding bill. Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, introduced HB 1795, nicknaming it himself as the “higher education opportunity act.”
The bill has seven primary provisions:
1. Four-year tuition-setting authority for universities, after that the responsibility goes back to the legislature. Carlyle says this will allow the six public baccalaureates to “‘calibrate’ tuition to a level that is more market oriented during this unprecedented economic crisis.”
2. Earmark much of the tuition increase for aid to “middle class” students. HB 1795 requires schools to spend much of the tuition revenue on student financial aid—half of all tuition above a 7 percent annual increases. To be eligible students’ families income would be between 70 percent and 125 percent of median family income (about $56,000 for a family of four)
3. Leverage federal financial aid tax credits. State law already requires universities to inform students about the American Opportunity Tax credit and the Lifelong Learning tax credit. But Carlyle proposes to force universities to redouble efforts in this area. Our financial aid administrators have told me that the tax credits would be much more attractive to students if they could get the money associated with the tax credit when they need it, instead of at the end of tax season.
4. “Acknowledging multiple-kid family costs for the middle class” is the way Carlyle describes this section. The bill requires the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) to consider family size when calculative the “family contribution” component for State Need Grant Awards. And the HECB would have to change it’s first-come-first-served” approach.
5. Guaranteed Education Tuition program: The Sequel. The bill directs the state’s prepaid tuition program to figure out a new version of itself. In order to price GET units for sale to families, the agency has to have a hope of estimating what tuition prices will do. Tuition has never been a predictable thing, but it’s given program administrators real headaches over the last couple of years.
6. Measure higher education effectiveness based on “outputs.” Says Carlyle, “We want to measure graduation rates, retention rates, course completions and other outcomes.”
7. Eliminating reports and studies that are duplicative or unnecessary. Is that Mark Lundgren I hear cheering in the distance? Reducing paperwork and redundant studies would be a blessing for everyone.