State Senate leaders vow to increase higher ed funding

OLYMPIA — A group of Washington state senators vowed Tuesday to increase funding for higher education by $300 million but declined to say how they would get the money at a time when lawmakers already are struggling to balance the budget.

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who developed the plan supported by a GOP-dominated coalition, said it is possible to write a budget that balances state spending while increasing funding for state colleges and universities. He said it will be a matter of prioritizing where government dollars go.

“We’re going to make higher education a priority,” Baumgartner said.

Lawmakers already face a more than $1 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle and are separately under court order to expand funding for K-12 education.

The senators also propose to require a 3 percent reduction in tuition for in-state students. They say this will help manage the long-term financial concerns in the state’s prepaid tuition program.

Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the University of Washington, was still waiting for more specific details on the Senate proposal. However, she said the $300 million appears to largely include money already expected to go to the institutions for general growth. She said the proposal adds only about $75 million in new money to the system and that gain is offset by the loss in tuition dollars.

“It will not provide adequate funding for the investments that we need to make in order to provide a high-quality education for our students,” Shepherd said.

Washington’s university presidents said earlier this year that the schools would freeze tuition for two years if lawmakers would add $225 million in extra funding to the system.

Under the Senate plan, $50 million of the new higher education money would be awarded to schools based on metrics, such as the number of undergraduates in degrees such as science or engineering, the retention rate of first-year students, and the average time it takes to complete an undergraduate degree.

Democrats in the Senate said in a statement they are encouraged that the GOP-leaning majority is embracing increased funding but want to better understand the details of the proposal.

More in Local News

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Vegas, LA, Phoenix, and more destinations from Paine Field

Alaska Airlines will fly to eight West Coast cities out of Everett starting this fall.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Marysville police send abandoned, unclaimed bikes to Zambia

“Out where we are, a bicycle is upward mobility,” said Kelly Huckaby, a missionary in Africa.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Man shot dead after argument at bar south of Everett

Police say an employee of the bar shot and killed the man, who had opened fire in the parking lot.

Alaska Airlines to announce Paine Field destinations Tuesday

The Snohomish County airport’s passenger terminal is slated to see flights this fall.

Most Read