Day 16 of special session moves tuition bill to the governor’s desk

Yesterday the Senate approved HB 1795, a massive bill that revises state higher education policy for tuition, financial aid, business affairs, accountability, and academic affairs. The bill is now on the governor’s desk.

She has 30 days to sign the bill but first her staff will pore over it. She may veto the entire bill or sections of the bill. If she doesn’t sign it, the bill becomes law without her signature.

What’s in the bill? Tuition Policy for a start. The bill eliminates the current (though never used) 7% limit on tuition increases and replaces it with the following

· 2011 2015: BOT has authority to set tuition.

· 2015-2019: Tuition-increase limit linked to rates at peer institutions.

· 2019-2020: Tuition-setting authority reverts to the Legislature.

Financial Aid

· Increases the proportion of overall tuition dedicated to financial aid.

· Universities that increase tuition above rates set in the budget must mitigate the impact on middle-income students (middle income means $100,000 for a family of four).

Academics

· Increase degree production 27% by 2018.

· Recognize DTA transfers as juniors with gen-ed requirements satisfied.

· Develop a degree that can be completed with 90 quarter-credits by transfer students.

· Increase the number of students who receive credit for prior learning.

· Develop a plan for implementing common course numbering across six baccalaureates.

Accountability

The bill includes 210 reporting requirements:

· National Governor’s Association Complete to Compete metrics plus Washington state-specific reporting.

· Financial aid distribution, effectiveness, and effect on enrollment.

· Performance metrics contained within an institution-specific performance agreement.

The bill also cuts some red tape for contracting, meetings, and travel.

What doesn’t the bill do?

It doesn’t answer the outstanding financial questions that are preventing us from figuring out how to absorb the massive cut we know is coming. We still don’t know what base tuition rate the state will assume (probably between 11.5% and 14%), what our cut will be, how we’ll be directed to take our salary cut, or what will happen with financial aid.

The operating budget is high-centered over workers compensation policy; the capital budget is stuck over whether or not to reduce the states debt limit. Legislators have begun to acknowledge the possibility of a second special session.

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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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