Students to pay extra for tuition in coming year

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen reporter

Undergraduate residents will pay an extra $206 to attend WSU in the coming year, after two years of tuition reductions to Washington public universities.

The Board of Regents today approved a 2.2 percent increase for in-state undergraduate students. The additional estimated $3.2 million from this will largely go toward new university costs, such as increased compensation for faculty, staff and graduate students.

“We’re not wasting the money,” President Kirk Schulz said. “We’re not building a new Taj Mahal somewhere. This is basically … to pay our folks, increase out benefits and do things the state said it’s important for us to do.”

He said that over the past two years, the university has been unable to keep up with increased costs without new revenue coming in from tuition. During that time, he said, WSU used reserves and other internal funding to fill the gap.

“[Lower tuition] is great for families,” he said, “but it’s put the university in a tough fiscal position.”

The increase follows larger decreases in the past two years. In 2014-2015 the cost for resident undergraduate students fell 5 percent, and the next year another 10 percent. Before that, it remained basically the same for two years.

Before that, Schulz noted, were several years of significant increases, from about $7,600 in 2009-2010 to a high of about $11,400 in 2012-2013. He said compared to these tuition hikes, 2.2 percent is acceptable, adding that the university does not want to return to larger increases.

Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president of Student Affairs, said she met with the presidents of several WSU campuses to discuss the tuition increase. Tri-Cities expressed concerns about its impact on students, but Gonzales said that overall the students understood and wanted to focus on being more efficient with student fees.

The increase was state-mandated and essentially out of the university’s control. But ASWSU President Jordan Frost noted that student government could potentially lower other costs to offset the increase.

“I think for us on the ASWSU side,” he said, “our job is not to add to that backward movement.”

He said they are building a website that details student fees, allowing students to engage in the budgeting process by giving input on what to sacrifice to save costs.

Additionally, he said he is considering forming a budget committee to assess which services are essential and which services students can live without, so they can target those that are unnecessary.

“We know tuition is raised, that’s out of our control,” Frost said. “But we have costs that are in our control, what can we do there to make college more affordable.”