Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Carlyle's Higher Education Opportunity Act clears the House

Lawmakers focusing on higher education during this recession have faced a difficult path in keeping access and quality high, while realigning state support. As The Advance has covered, funding for each student enrollment has flipped from predominately state funded, to student tuition supported.

For example, the average state support per year for a full-time student at the University of Washington in 2007 was just under $10,000. In the coming budget, it's likely that state funding level will be under $6,000, leaving the balance of an average yearly $15,700 tuition up to the students.

This session Rep. Reuven Carlyle introduced a comprehensive bill to navigate this problem, the Higher Education Opportunity Act. It passed the House yesterday with a 79 to 17 vote and it's expected to also pass the Senate.

The bipartisan support in the House is a positive step for an issue that's been sticky for the Legislature in the past, and will likely continue to cause some controversy.

Key elements of the bill:
- Universities are given the authority to set tuition levels consistent with local needs
- Tuition raised over prescribed levels will trigger increased aid for low and middle-income students
- Efficiencies and changes will help students complete degrees quicker, especially two-year transfers and students with prior learning
- Strong accountability measures so the public can track performance

You can listen to an audio report on the legislation by clicking here, and also watch Carlyle urge support for the bill on the House Floor: