Budget pressures generate tuition rumors

Tonight I heard a rumor that tuition will go up 25% next year at CWU.

I have spent the several hours since then trying to think of a good way to describe the chances of that happening. Pigs flying. Snowballs down south. Nothing original. I am left only with the facts.

  • 14% – highest tuition increase on record for CWU
  • 11.5% – tuition increase actually proposed by the state House
  • 9.0 – tuition increase actually proposed by the governor
  • 7.0 – current statutory limit on tuition increases

De facto control of tuition lies with the legislature. They assume a certain rate hike and then subtract the money it generates from our base of state support . Voila! That gives you a final budget.

Still, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that it is completely out of the realm of possibility that our board of trustees would entertain, let alone approve, an increase of 25% in tuition. Not gonna happen.

Where did the number come from? Here’s what I think.

Early in the legislative session policymakers were trying to size the problem and asked universities to tell them what would happen in the event of a cut in state support at the governor’s proposed level of 25%? What about the governor’s level plus another 15% cut? And another 15% cut? Then they asked universities to estimate what increase in tuition would be required to make up the cut. The answer, assuming enrollment of 9700: 20%, 23%, and, here it is, 25% respectively to make up for a state budget cut of 55%. Their effort was to demonstrate how ridiculously large the problem is, not to set public policy.

Everyone expects a deep cut, but I’ve not heard  55% referenced in anything other than a budget exercise. Everyone believes tuition will rise, but I do not believe either the legislature or our governing board would consider anything approaching a 25% annual tuition hike at CWU – ever.


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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