State House proposals could mean higher tuition, tougher university enrollment

Olympic College Poulsbo campus accommodates hundreds of students from the region.  - Brad Camp / March 2010
Olympic College Poulsbo campus accommodates hundreds of students from the region.
— image credit: Brad Camp / March 2010

NORTH KITSAP – Colleges and universities are preparing for funding cuts and this year’s high school graduates are almost guaranteed to face increased tuition when they head to college in September.

On April 4, the state House of Representatives released its proposed budget for 2011-13. Included in the budget are funding cuts to higher education, which will impact tuition rates for schools around the state.

The largest cuts could potentially force colleges and universities to raise tuitions up to 13 percent. This rise in tuition would offset the revenue cuts made to the schools.

The House cut 2 percent more than the governor had originally recommended. Currently, the average tuition of a Washington resident at University of Washington is about $8,700. If the university raises tuition by 13 percent, the average annual tuition will be about $9,800.

According to the proposed 2011-13 Biennial Operating Budget, Washington State University and Western Washington University could see a tuition hike of 13 percent; tuition at Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University and Evergreen State College could increase by 11.5 percent.

UW is now accepting a few hundred fewer in-state students in order to bring in more non-residents who, according to UW Associate Vice President Norm Arkans, pay about three times more in tuition.

“There is one thing I’m certain of, tuition is going to go up,” Arkans said.

Tuition seems to be one of the top concerns for high school seniors and their parents. North Kitsap High School career counselor Leslie Weatherill said she has seen a growing number of students either considering community college or delaying college plans to work full-time. Students have told her they plan to work for a few years to gain some income before heading to college; however, that tends to be problematic, she said.

"That plan usually derails them for more than two years," she said. "But I'm hearing that more and more."

Though the budget has not been adopted, schools continue to brace for the cuts. Community colleges are included in the picture, but schools such as Olympic College are seeing a continuing trend of student enrollment, OC Media Relations Director Jennifer Haze said.

Last spring, 7,918 students attended Olympic College campuses and eight class locations. This spring, there are 7,997. The current enrollment includes 5,079 full-time equivalent students, up from 4,899 students in 2010.

“Our enrollment has been going up every year,” Haze said. “We are anticipating that pattern to continue.”

Along with students vying to save money by attending OC and transferring to a four-year university, Haze said many people have returned to school in order to be more competitive in the job market.

However, OC is anticipating making cuts for 2011-12, including layoffs and program cuts. The community college's share of cuts from the state is expected to be about $2.8 million in 2011-12 and $2.2 million in 2012-13.

Since 2008, 37 full-time positions have been eliminated as OC has dealt with shrinking budgets. For next year, more programs are also planned to be phased out, including: Automotive Technology Program and Fire Service Program by the end of spring 2012; elimination of one-on-one music lessons and summer nursing assistant program; elimination of phlebotomy, environmental studies program and para-education courses.

A host of other programs are also planned to be restructured and combined to save money. Funding for Running Start has also been reduced by the House budget, which means about 600 fewer students attending community colleges.

“That’s something we’re still trying to determine,” Haze said of the potential impact of Running Start reductions. “We’re trying to do as much planning as we can.”

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