On April 18, the state Senate approved of a budget that will trim roughly $500 million from higher education, according to the Associated Press. The budget approved by the state House of Representatives would cut about $482 million.
Under the budget approved by the Senate, tuition at state community and technical colleges — including Pierce College — could rise roughly 12 percent, while the House’s plan would lead to a tuition hike of about 11.5 percent.
In addition, community college students must cope with tuition hikes should they decide to transfer. Under the Senate’s budget, the University of Washington and Washington State University, the state’s two flagship four-year colleges, could see their tuitions increase by up to 16 percent.
Both approved budgets come after the budget proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, who initially proposed cutting $567.5 million from higher education. She proposed doing this by trimming the state’s work-study program, suspending scholarship programs, and freezing community and technical college wages, among other things.
In fiscal year 2010, Washington state students paid 55 percent from their own pocket, or from scholarships and federal aid, with approximately 45 percent coming from the state. The AP said that, should either the House or Senate budget take effect as is, that balance could shift to roughly 70-30.
Overall, legislators have expressed a mix of apprehension and relief at the budget.
“It is the deepest cuts…in decades. It’s been a painful process and we have made very difficult decisions,” said Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat and the chair of Ways of Means committee.
Sen. Mike Hewitt, the senate Republican leader, said: “This budget is the first… in six years that does not spend more than we have.”
The budget battle is not over. The differences between the House and Senate budgets mandated an extension of the legislative session, which was expected to end April 24.
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