Dubbed the “Ten-Three-Fifty” plan by supporters, the proposal includes $50 million in funding that schools would compete for based on performance standards. It also allocates $26 million for the State Need Grant program, which provides aid to low-income college students.
It’s unclear how the plan will be received by presidents at the state’s four-year colleges, who earlier this year said they would freeze in-state undergraduate tuition if the Legislature could come up with $225 million for higher education.
“We’ll have to hear what the universities have to say, but we think a 10 percent increase in funding is a remarkable change from what’s been happening in past legislative sessions,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane). “Certainly there is a desire from some institutions to put new dollars into salary increases. I think those dollars need to first go to students.”
Supporters also say the plan will shore up the state’s Washington’s prepaid tuition program, which came under fire early in the legislative session.
Lawmakers did not offer specifics on how they will pay for plan or if other programs will face cuts in the overall budget.
The Legislature is tasked with closing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall. That does not count additional money lawmakers must find to meet last year’s McCleary decision. Some say that will take another $1 billion for a down payment on fully funding K-12 education.
New state revenue forecast numbers will be released Wednesday.
Democratic Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) and David Frockt (D-Seattle) released a joint statement after the proposal was announced:
“We’re encouraged to see the Republican majority is joining us in embracing the idea of increasing funding for higher education and holding down tuition for students. We need to ensure higher education is affordable and accessible for the middle-and low-income students and families who make up the heart of the middle class. That’s positive movement on their side that we think every member of our caucus would welcome.On the other hand, we are not sure whether their numbers add up. We need to flesh out the details.We’re open to working with them on the math and making sure the solutions we agree on are backed up by real numbers. Our students need real solutions, not empty promises, and if the Republican majority is willing to work with us there’s no reason we can’t find a way to move in a new direction on state support, tuition and financial aid.”