WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

Cougar Chat, The state of higher education in Washington State

The State of Higher Education in Washington State – budget reduction impacts

The United States was, for many years, the best-educated country on earth. Now, it is close to tipping backward as other nations press ahead to take advantage of opportunities in the new, knowledge-driven global economy. Washington State has made dramatic cuts to higher education over the last four years. Gratefully, no futher cuts were made during the last legislative session of 2012. As legislators get ready to return to Olympia on January 14th, we hope they take into consideration the impacts of the cuts made between 2008 and 2011.

In Washington State, the evidence of education ‘tipping backward’ can be arguably stark. At a time when the state should be educating a much greater percentage of our citizens to higher levels, the state is making it increasingly challenging for tens of thousands of potential students to gain the skills and knowledge to succeed. Unfortunately, many of these potential students are from our state’s most economically disadvantaged households.

Of course, it would be remissful and unfair not to acknowledge the impacts to the state budget because of the Great Recession. The recession and resulting lack of available dollars in the state general fund resulted in cuts to a vast majority of state services and functions. However, higher education in our state received a disproportionally larger reduction in funding than other major budget categories.

(Source: How Washington Pays for Higher Education, Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2011)

The result is that Washington State now invests less in higher education than it did 20 years ago.

(Source: Council of Presidents, December 2012)

These reductions by the state are ironically occurring at the same time that our state’s public colleges and universities are enrolling more students than ever. The two research institutions — including Washington State University — are also awarding more degrees, including those in high demand fields, e.g., engineering.

(Source: Washington Public Higher Education Financing: Key Indicators and Trends, Washington Student Achievement Council, September 2012)

Unfortunately, as our state’s public institutions of higher learning work to improve processes, streamline management, reduce costs while educating more students, maintain quality, address performance expectations, and support student needs, the budget cuts and increased demand have created:

  • Higher student debt
  • Projected increase in time to graduation
  • Academic program eliminations and mergers
  • Increased class sizes
  • Reduced class offerings
  • Fewer academic advisors, career counselors, and student support services
  • Faculty and staff cuts
  • Tuition increases
(Source: Council of Presidents, December 2012)

To review how WSU is actively addressing these impacts, please click here. WSU is working ardently to provide quality education to its students while ensuring students graduate on time, and in the fields that they choose.

The bottomline is that the state has shifted the burden of the costs of higher education to students and their families.

(Source: Office of Program Research, Washington State House of Representatives, September 2011)

Though some may argue that these shifts are appropriate since the benefit of a college degree is primarily personal, an impressive array of data supports an alternative view:

  • Higher levels of education continue to directly correlate with social stability and are important contributors to statewide economic success.
  • As a social investment, higher education pays triple the returns of prison construction and high incarceration rates.
  • Every level of education achieved beyond high school confers significant additional lifetime earnings.
  • In general, people who fully realize their education potential require far fewer support services from government.
  • Click here to see other benefits of higher education and gaining a college degree.
(Source: Key Facts about Higher Education in Washington State, Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2011)

The state will continue to make social changes in the allocation of scarce resources. We hope the state takes into consideration the cuts that have already been made to public higher education and the impact of these cuts — including the shifting of costs to students and their families, and projects the need to keep our state intellectually and economically competitive. Ideally, public higher education should be affordable, accessible, attainable, and available for all citizens who meet the entry requirements.

No comments yet.

Add your response

You must be logged in to post a comment.