GOP senators put forth college funding bill

Republican senators moved forward today with their plan for reasserting state control on the running of Washington’s community colleges and public universities.

They introduced a bill promising steady funding for colleges based on enrollment while demanding tuition be cut by 3 percent for next year’s students.

“A highly subsidized state-controlled model is good for our economy and that is what we have to get back to,” Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said Wednesday of the strategy embodied in Senate Bill 5883.

The bill encompasses the policy changes outlined at a Tuesday press conference conducted by Baumgartner and other members of the Senate Majority Coalition. Senators pledged to steer $300 million more into higher education in the next budget though no sum of money is included in the bill.

The bill spells out the formula under which universities and community colleges would tie an annual allotment of funding with the enrollment of full-time students. It would increase each year by the rate of inflation.

Colleges could snag additional dollars based on other factors such as the number of students who earn degrees in high demand fields, graduate in four years and come from low-income families. Schools also can be rewarded for using classrooms more hours in the day.

Meanwhile, the bill requires a 3 percent cut in tuition for community college and university students effective this fall. The directive comes less than two years after the Legislature awarded colleges the authority to set their own tuition rates.

As of this afternoon, no hearing had been set for the bill.

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