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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

UW Class of 2013 Sees Tuition Rise 82 Percent Over Four Years

Posted by on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 8:59 AM

Republican Senators blocked a Democratic bill yesterday that would have kept interest rates on federal college loans from doubling come July. Yet one more blow to students who have seen tuition rates skyrocket at public universities nationwide as states struggle to close Great Recession induced budget gaps.

Here in Washington the defunding of public universities has been particularly awful, resulting in four years of double-digit tuition increases. At the University of Washington the Class of 2013 paid tuition and fees totaling $6,802 for their 2008-2009 freshman academic year; their senior year will cost them $12,385, an 82 percent increase over four years. That's an average annual tuition hike of 16.2 percent a year (or 20.5 percent "every single year" in McKenna Math™) over a four-year period when Washington's median household income has actually fallen.

But more than just a cyclical blip this shift in the burden of paying for higher education from society as a whole to the individual students has been both dramatic and generational. In 1990 the state picked up over 70 percent of the cost of a college degree; it now subsidizes less than 30 percent. And the longer one looks back in time the starker and more profound the unraveling of this particular social contract appears.

For example, when Republican attorney general and gubernatorial wannabe Rob McKenna enrolled at the University of Washington back in 1980, tuition and fees amounted to only $687 for the academic year ($1,912 in inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars). Today's students pay 18 times more than McKenna did, or 6.5 times more when adjusting for inflation. Yet over that same period, median household income has increased by less than 13 percent in inflation adjusted dollars.

To illustrate this more sharply, McKenna's $687 tuition amounted to only 3.6 percent of the $19,009 median household income for the western United States in 1980. But today's $12,385 tuition gobbles up a whopping 23 percent of the estimated $54,000 median household income.

McKenna himself has talked a good talk about restoring education funding while providing no plan to pay for it, and like the rest of his party he is ideologically opposed to raising the taxes necessary to even halt this trend let alone reverse it. Indeed, McKenna even backed the supplemental budget senate Republicans attempted to push through in an 11th hour coup that would have cut an additional $38 million from higher education on top of the 50 percent cut our public colleges and universities had already endured in the current biennial budget. There's even reason to believe that McKenna engineered the budget coup, personally meeting with key senators to secure their allegiance.

To be fair, Democrats haven't done much better on the revenue side, but mostly out of a lack of nerve or ability than any opposition to the notion of raising the tax revenue necessary to invest in our state's workforce of the future.

There once was a time in Washington and many other states where any young person with the ability and the drive could afford a quality college education simply by working his or her way through with a part-time job. No more. Even as the cost of providing an education has remained flat we have steadily shifted the burden of paying for it to a point where we are either pricing potential students out of the market and/or graduating them with unmanageable levels of debt. The next generation of computer programmers may find $50,000 or $100,000 of student loans worth the price, but what about the next generation of school teachers or social workers? How many of our youth are being driven away from the careers they love and for which they are best suited, simply because these jobs don't pay enough to pay off the student loans necessary to pay for the education that prepares workers for them?

And what will Washington look like if we continue down this path?


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Keep in mind that UW held the line on tuition far long than other states' public universities. UW News and World Report always ranked UW in the top tier of "best value" because of how good UW is and the cost of tuition.

Not saying the hikes are good, won't hurt students, etc. but compare the tuition to other states and you can see a big difference.
Posted by westello on May 9, 2012 at 9:05 AM · Report this
I'm pretty sure I remember a 100% increase in tuition over about six years in the very early 1990s, though I can't rapidly find the numbers online, and we're talking about less than $5,000 a year after the doubling.
Posted by Warren Terra on May 9, 2012 at 9:10 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 3
The results are in: don't invest in a college degree, spend your money investing in insurance industry stock.

Want to know why the costs have skyrocketed, despite staff & faculty pay remaining normal? Insurance premiums. It's licensed extortion, which beats any other money-making plan around.
Posted by Sir Vic on May 9, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Confluence 4
UW's a joke. It's basically become a farm for rich foreigners and dumb-n-rich local kids. Smart, local kids leave the state and take their intelligence/skills elsewhere. Smart foreigners go to quality universities on the east coast. UW is now just churning out idiots that have the $$ to pay. Well done, Washington state. Your school was once on the up-and-up. Now, the only thing it's up for is the highest bidder.
Posted by Confluence on May 9, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
I don't think the American economy is suffering from a lack of college graduates. If individual students bear a greater portion of the cost of their education maybe they will think more carefully about whether what they are learning is really worth while.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
@5 Yeah! I should just say, "Fuck you, biology degree!", because why contribute more to a society that takes my tax money and keeps telling me to fuck myself, even though I persevere? A career at McDonald's is much more valuable to society.
Posted by erly on May 9, 2012 at 10:02 AM · Report this
My own time at the UW is now long in the past, but while the campus was teeming with dumb kids looking to coast their way into a meaningless degree they could use as a license to wear a suit in their future careers, it also had a huge number of extremely dedicated, interesting students. In particular, the nontraditional students I met, people returning to school after some years or even a lifetime away, were uniformly interesting, serious students, but also many of the traditional 18-to-22-year-olds.
The UW is a major public research university, and it's also a factory for the issuing of diplomas to snotnosed kids who've kept their noses reasonably clean for four years. It was absolutely possible to graduate without learning much of everything - but the resources were awesome, and the professors were positively eager to help when they encountered a student seeking an education, rather than simply to whine about the grading of their exam.
From a position of significant ignorance, and influenced by tremendous marketing, I have this notion that at the small, fancy, elite private schools mechanisms force the students to get an education. This is not the case at the UW, but a tremendous education is there to be had for the student who seeks it.
Posted by Warren Terra on May 9, 2012 at 10:07 AM · Report this
@7 "the campus was teeming with dumb kids looking to coast their way into a meaningless degree they could use as a license to wear a suit in their future careers"

I don't think a meaningless degree is a license to wear a suit in your future career. I'm aware of the statistics that show college graduates make more money, but correlation isn't causality. I think a large part of the reason people with degrees make money is that middle and upper class families tend to send their kids to college. Let us consider the case of former President George W Bush. He received a first class education and went on to an exceptional career. However, the first was not the cause of the second. Instead, both were the result of his family's wealth and social status.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 10:44 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 9

The unemployment rate for college graduates is less than one-third of the general population:…

Despite claims to the contrary, getting a degree at a accredited public institution is a better investment than the DOW, real estate, or almost anything else.

Given that -- it's wrong for other members of society to be forced to fund someone else's golden ticket.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on May 9, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
And it's even lower for advanced degree holders.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 9, 2012 at 10:59 AM · Report this
Not to defend McKenna, but Democrats are the ones who voted to hand their tuition-setting authority over to the administrators of state colleges.

I'm sure glad I went to the UW back when you could get a degree without incurring a lifetime of debt (though the trust fund an aunt set up for my education definitely helped out a lot with not having to take out more loans than I did).
Posted by Mr. X on May 9, 2012 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Goldy 12
@9: You could use that same argument against publicly funding K-12 education.

What you miss is that society as a whole benefits from these well-educated workers, both in the higher taxes they pay and in the economic benefits they produce. Communities with a higher percentage of college graduates are wealthier across the board, even those without college degrees.

But you'd obviously rather destroy our economy on principle than pay for investing in human infrastructure.
Posted by Goldy on May 9, 2012 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
Goldy's last sentence in @12 for the win.

Which is why they're called al-Qaeda USA.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
@12 Personally, I'm all for investing in human infrastructure, but it seems to me we have over-invested in the wrong kind of higher education. I'd like to know how the US stacks up against a country like Germany or Austria in terms of the proportion of the population that has a BA, or whatever the equivalent is in their system?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 15
In trying to strangle government, the Republicans don't see that their hands are wrapped around all of our necks.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on May 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 16

You cannot get a white collar job without a college degree.


Let me Google that for you.

From The New York Times:

The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.

Canada now leads the world in educational attainment, with about 56 percent of its young adults having earned at least associate’s degrees in 2007, compared with only 40 percent of those in the United States.

22 percent of Americans have four-year college degrees.

In the '90s we had a supposed labor shortage, despite all the people who wasted their education on four-year degrees (according to you).
Posted by keshmeshi on May 9, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Why do they even need to raise tuition ever when they have a $2 billion endowement? If a space alien were to look at the UW they would see a financial investment firm with an education arm. 80% of the UW's $2.5 billion wealth is in their endowement. The other 20% is in the school. When the market went bad the first thing they did is contract their education spending. What's up with that?
Posted by Curlove on May 9, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
I think an argument could be made for ending subsidies for UW Law School. More lawyers decreases the GDP of a nation.

But more engineers or more doctors increases the GDP of a nation. So jacking up tuition for those is just plain wrong.

Both are pretty expensive, but good investments in our nation.

Now, of course, we should offer full citizenship to anyone who graduates with a PhD in Engineering or Medicine, but that's another discussion.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 9, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
@16 "You cannot get a white collar job without a college degree."

I don't think that's true. If you dress presentably and can type 50 words a minute I don't think an employer is going to care if you have a BA or not. College graduates are more likely to be the sort of person who is suitable for office work, but again correlation is not causality.

"In the '90s we had a supposed labor shortage, despite all the people who wasted their education on four-year degrees"

I don't think sliding through school with a B- GPA in an easy major makes someone a more productive worker.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
"80% of the UW's $2.5 billion wealth is in their endowement. The other 20% is in the school."

This couldn't be more wrong. UW's total annual budget is twice what's in their endowment, let alone land and buildings.
Posted by Reader01 on May 9, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 21

Every white collar job has a B.A. as a bare minimum requirement, but go ahead and keep telling yourself lies to make yourself feel superior to everyone else.
Posted by keshmeshi on May 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Report this
@21 I'm not necessarily saying your wrong. I'm just wondering what the basis of your belief is. I know plenty of college drop outs that have found they way into respectable middle class careers. As long as you talk and act like a suburban white boy, I don't think anybody cares if you stuck around for graduation or not.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 1:51 PM · Report this
"I know plenty of college drop outs that have found they way into respectable middle class careers"

Not recently you haven't
Posted by Reader01 on May 9, 2012 at 1:54 PM · Report this
Goldy 24
@22: Yes, anecdotally, you can find people without BAs who have gone on to rewarding white collar careers. I know a couple myself. And then there are people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

That said, no, on average, most white collar jobs require college degrees.
Posted by Goldy on May 9, 2012 at 2:58 PM · Report this
BTW Here is an interesting set of statistics I found online.…

It would seem that Germany, known throughout the world for it's highly productive and well paid workforce, sends a smaller percentage of it's population to college than most other developed nations. It seems to me that this casts doubt on the notion that universal higher education is necessary for prosperity and social justice.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 26
@25 That's because German secondary education involves actual education, not proms, football and lawsuits.

It used to be that a legit high school education in America was a significant level of education. Now, it's as useful as a birth certificate.
If the point you are trying to make is that we should focus on elementary & secondary education instead of college, it is a valid point, but you aren't making it very well.
Posted by Sir Vic on May 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
@26 Yep, Germany also has an excellent system of technical training and apprenticeships. The only point I'm making, is that pumping more money into the UW so that more semi-literate 19 year olds can fall asleep in English Lit 101 won't solve our nation's problems.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on May 9, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Exactly why I'm doing my masters program out of state!
Posted by updog on May 16, 2012 at 2:40 AM · Report this

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