Washington's public university presidents are kvetching about Governor Chris Gregoire's proposal to freeze tuition rates, without promising additional state funding.
One possible alternative would be to freeze enrollment, but [Eastern Washington University President Rodolfo] Arevalo said that idea would be the opposite of what Washington citizens want. They need more places to go to earn bachelor's degrees to qualify for the jobs businesses want to fill, he added.
Or, you know, our university presidents could take the lead in advocating for higher taxes. I mean, if Washington citizens really want more access to quality higher education, then who better than a university president to educate our citizenry that higher education costs money? And yet, our state's university presidents continue to refuse to provide that leadership.
At a higher education funding forum last February, all six of our state university presidents gathered before a liberal audience at Town Hall Seattle, and yet not one of them had the balls to discuss the only possible solution to their budgetary problems: Raising additional tax revenue. "It's above my pay grade," the UW's Mike Young finally shrugged evasively. Young's total compensation package comes to $802,000 a year, making him the highest paid state employee funded out of general fund tax dollars (Governor Chris Gregoire, by comparison makes $166,891). So if the question of whether to raise taxes is above Young's pay grade, I guess the issue is completely off the table.
I don't mean to blame the university presidents for the untenable situation they're in. They didn't creating this funding crisis. But they're not doing anything to solve it, either. The truth is, there are a lot of things that Washington citizens want, many of them contradictory. And until voters understand that we can't adequately fund K-12 and higher education without raising additional tax revenues, our lawmakers will continue to unrealistically demand that our universities provide even more with less.
What's missing here is leadership. And as long as these university presidents continue to merely kvetch about their woeful underfunding, instead of taking a lead in educating the public about the only viable long term solution, nothing is going to change.