Tuition frozen for second year running

The supplemental budget passed by the state of Washington Legislature ensures WSU tuition rates will remain frozen for the school year beginning in the fall of 2014.

The Washington Legislature passes a two-year budget on odd-numbered years and a supplemental budget on even-numbered years. WSU representatives in Olympia said their goal for this legislative session was to keep their original budget whole through this supplemental budget year.

“We are coming out of a difficult economic session, things are still tenuous,” said Chris Mulick, WSU director of governmental relations. “We are never sure if they (legislators) will hold the line. Fortunately the economy has held up.”

After two years of 14 percent increases followed by two years of 16 percent increases, WSU tuition rates will stay the same for the second-consecutive year. The supplemental budget state lawmakers passed during their 60-day 2014 session continues to reinstate funding that was withheld during the economic downturn. WSU officials were already working to keep tuition rates from rising again, but the supplemental budget confirms the viability of the freeze.

WSU student lobbyists said they were pleased with the results of the session, considering prior to last year WSU hadn’t experienced frozen tuition in 30 years.

“Everybody recognizes that for too many years higher education has been low hanging fruit when spending cuts need to be made,” said Jansen VanderMeulen, ASWSU director of legislative affairs. “We have really seen legislators turn a corner.”

The state legislation’s increased willingness to aid higher education can be mainly attributed to a stabilizing economy, but some also point to President Elson S. Floyd’s voice in Olympia as a catalyzing force.

“I think President Floyd’s conversations over there have turned the thinking toward how do we feed higher education so that it can then feed the economy because it’s all connected,” said Joan King, WSU associate vice president and chief university budget officer.

King said she can’t predict how much longer the tuition freeze can be maintained, but that the best indicator is the economy.

“My hope is the economy will pick up in the state, pick up in the nation, pick up internationally, and we can get back to a place of more reinvestment into higher ed,” King said. “It pays back when our students become rocket scientists or journalists.”

The Legislature also increased investment in student financial aid programs and passed the Real Hope Act during this legislative session.