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Friday, January 18, 2013

Today's College Students Should Demand From Lawmakers the Same Opportunities Those Lawmakers Received

Posted by on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 8:29 AM

State House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) and Senate "Majority" Leader Rodney Tom (R-Medina) both got to where they are today thanks in part to a University of Washington undergraduate education. Chopp graduated in 1975, Tom in 1985.

Their educations were clearly excellent, but they were also surprisingly affordable. Back when Chopp entered the UW, tuition and fees totaled only $495 for the entire academic year. A decade later, Tom paid just $1,059 for his freshman year. But adjusted for inflation, Chopp and Tom paid roughly the same tuition rate: $2,704 and $2,507 respectively in constant 2012 dollars. (That's right: Adjusted for inflation, Tom actually paid slightly less than Chopp.)

By comparison, the UW's 2012-2013 freshman class is paying $12,383—almost five times the cost of what Chopp and Tom paid for their freshman years. Again, adjusted for inflation.

"It's still a heck of a value," Tom said in October. Yeah, to somebody who lives in a Medina mansion, maybe.

More than anything, this is what pisses me off about the attitude of state lawmakers towards higher education. There seems to be a total lack of embarrassment or shame over the fact that they are denying current and future generations the same affordable access to the middle class and beyond that previous generations afforded them.

The irony is, thanks in part to our once-affordable university system, we are a much wealthier state now than in the 1970s and 1980s when Chopp and Tom went to college largely on the taxpayer dime. It's not that we can't afford to offer current students the same opportunities, it's that we won't. And future generations will suffer from our selfish refusal to invest in the future for all the same reasons our current class of leaders benefit from the generosity and forethought of generations past.

 

Comments (37) RSS

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roddy 1
We used to invest in the education of our children in Washington. Our economy is still doing okay because we've imported so much talent from other states and countries. But, for those of us who are already here, we aren't giving our children the same opportunities that their parents and grandparents have. Like always, those with higher incomes or inherited wealth will be able to export their children to get educated in other states with a stronger mix of public and private institutions. But, here in Washington, with basically all of our Higher Ed infrastructure on the public side, as we undermine those institutions Washington is undermining its future as a place of innovation, culture and employment.
Posted by roddy http://www.washingtonunited.org on January 18, 2013 at 8:55 AM · Report this
kk in seattle 2
Not only do they refuse to provide the same subsidies they received, they've ensured that tuition will continue to skyrocket and now propose to abolish the only hedge against skyrocketing tuition. Rodney Tom is not just a Republican, he's the worst kind of plantation Republican.
Posted by kk in seattle on January 18, 2013 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
They would rather subsidize billionaires using the tax dollars of the poor, quite frankly.

Because that's what tax exemptions for Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, and other corporations are.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 18, 2013 at 9:09 AM · Report this
DOUG. 4
Does Jeff Bezos pay any taxes?
Posted by DOUG. http://www.dougsvotersguide.com on January 18, 2013 at 9:16 AM · Report this
5
Absolutely. As a high school teacher, it is starting to become a constant mantra in my less-than-stellar students: why should I try this when I don't really want to go to college and even if I did I can't afford it anyway? I'm starting to see kids give up more and more. And I can't hold it against them completely when the truth of the matter is that students with mediocre to poor GPAs don't want to bother trying harder when the financial reality is what it is. It makes me really sad. And we should hold these fucker's balls to the fire until they do what is right.
Posted by paulus22 on January 18, 2013 at 9:18 AM · Report this
6
@5 Should less than stellar high school students be going to college?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 18, 2013 at 9:23 AM · Report this
7
What? Should C students go to college? Yes, Ken, they should because it matters. It matters for the economy and for those who are the citizens of our country.

Posted by westello on January 18, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 8
You can make the same argument for all other public investments, including infrastructure and social services - the assholes who rose to their positions of power and wealth on the backs of those investments are more than happy to gut funding for the present and for the future. It's the entire premise of the poorly phrased "you didn't build that" argument.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
9
Well said, Goldy.
Posted by sahara29 on January 18, 2013 at 9:44 AM · Report this
10
Goldy I don't like Tom he is right it is still a pretty decent value even for middle class families. Was for mine.
Posted by Seattle14 on January 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 11
I was in the dark before I went to college. My thinking was controlled by parents who never even graduated high school. It was like having a light switched on in my head. The whole world can open up to you. We are making a very grave error for the future of our nation by making college less available.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on January 18, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Report this
12
@7 What I remember from college is a lot of deeply unintellectual people being forced to listen to learned professors drone on about things most of the students didn't care about and didn't have the intellectual capability to really understand anyway. I don't thank anyone really benefitted from the experience.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 18, 2013 at 9:54 AM · Report this
oyezoyezoyez 13
I've been waiting for someone to write this story. What about the rest of the legislature?
Posted by oyezoyezoyez on January 18, 2013 at 10:09 AM · Report this
chaseacross 14
As someone saddled with$30,000 in student debt, I can attest to the generational inequality. What really twists the knife is that even though the expense of going to college has risen dramatically, the value of a college education in anything other than STEM has plummeted, making it nearly impossible to pay off the exorbitant loans. Why should high school students bother going to college if they're just going to end up in the service sector anyway?
Posted by chaseacross on January 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
douchus 15
#12

Your experience may not be the same as the the experience of others. The difference between understanding and not understanding that is what often separates the good from the bad.
Posted by douchus on January 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
Westlake, son! 16
> There seems to be a total lack of embarrassment or shame over the fact that they are denying current and future generations the same affordable access to the middle class and beyond that previous generations afforded them.

I hate the children of WW2 parents.
Posted by Westlake, son! on January 18, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17
@4 as a percentage of income? not much.

Until you realize a capital gain it is untaxed, and it's untaxed when you "donate" it to a "non-profit" which does what your hobby was and gives you free box seats and free limo rides to sports games and your "non-profit" private jets - all of which pay no state taxes or any other tax for that matter.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM · Report this
18
how much more is the govt doing since the 70s and 80s? are there more programs, and more expensive programs, that the state govt takes care of now than it did then? I'd suggest that there certainly is. And with all of those additional programs, there is also lots of additional waste in the system. So, if you want better and lower cost higher education, then what are you willing to give up for it?
Posted by semi-crepuscular on January 18, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Report this
19
@14 What was your major?

@15 I'm aware that my personal experience gives me an anti-education bias. That doesn't mean my mind can't be changed on the subject. I have a definite pro-gun bias, but arguing w/ people on the internet has slowly but surely convinced me that stricter gun laws might be a good idea.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 18, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Report this
20
Students are demanding a better deal, but it falls on deaf ears. Republicans would gut what's left of education and Dems pay lip service to higher ed but still vote for tuition increases, both agreeing to balance the budget on the backs of students and further privatize education. One party simply doesn't give a fuck and the other takes the youth vote for granted. So what should students do?
Posted by Subdued Excitement on January 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM · Report this
21
The problem Goldy is that a college education raises people's expectations on their future. And all that will do is make them sad when the reality sinks in that society's elites have made sure their career opportunities are limited to low wage tasks, like cleaning dishes, or tending lawns, or cleaning out sewers, or be meat shields in wars, etc. Nevermind that the elites are sabotaging America's future. Since when has long range planning ever been their strong point? Their planning horizons extend only to quarterly profit reports, or election cycles.

Plus, college education can teach people critical thinking skills, which is unacceptable in a screw-everybody-but-the-already-rich plutocracy.
Posted by screed on January 18, 2013 at 10:50 AM · Report this
kk in seattle 22
@18: We're NOT doing a lot more, but what we do is more expensive. For example, adding a lane to I-5 now is more expensive than back in the day when we just tore down poor people's homes. But as a percentage of our State GDP, taxes are far lower now than they were decades ago. Short answer: what we're doing is more expensive, but we can (more than) afford it. Goldy is right. The haves today just don't want to pay for the same stuff that was subsidized for them.

@12: The plural of anecdote is not data.
Posted by kk in seattle on January 18, 2013 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Goldy 23
@13 I'll get to the rest of the legislature. But let's just say that Chopp and Tom's experience is typical. I believe the most recent grad is Chris Reykdal (WSU 2004), and his inflation-adjusted starting tuition would have been about $4,800.
Posted by Goldy on January 18, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
24
@16 The children of WW2 parents are the Baby Boomers - unwitting beneficiaries of the greatest spurt of material wealth the world will ever see, and who have never forgiven the rest of us for their stupendous good luck. Hanging's too good for them.

@21 nails it. University education is one of the few remaining tools for contesting the 1%'s drive toward neo-feudalism.

Pricing higher ed out of reach is another expression of official disregard for medieval levels of inequality. It's what fuels revolts.
Posted by Che Guava on January 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 25
21 & 24 are right on.

The problem is that people weirdly and incorrectly assume that those in power want to invest in education, infrastructre, building a prosperous middle class, etc.

No. Their goal is to totally annihilate the middle class and the poor, and they've largely succeeded already.

Even as the middle class implodes, people ask "what's wrong with the eCONomy??" There is nothing wrong with the eCONomy--it's functioning precisely as designed.
Posted by Original Andrew on January 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 26
Our kleptocratic political and eCONomic systems can't even be considered to be related to capitalism anymore--we've moved on to a new, apocalyptic phase. Maybe we should call it swindleism.
Posted by Original Andrew on January 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Mattini 27
Tuition has more than doubled from when I started at UW 10 years ago. I had excellent grades and my family was poor, so I received good grants and scholarships. I also worked for most of college. I still graduated with $10,000 out in loans. College absolutely changed my life and helped me claw my way up to middle class. It makes me sad that kids today in the same circumstances have it so much harder.
Posted by Mattini on January 18, 2013 at 12:58 PM · Report this
28
If today's students had the same opportunities as legislators did, a lot fewer of them would be going to college.

The census maintains web-accessible records of state spending by category back to 1992. In 1992, Washington's real per capita spending on higher ed was $726. It is now $855. (To be clear: those numbers are inflation-adjusted and per head of population, not per student head.) I'm sure no one disputes that if I dug up records going back to 1975 and 1985, they would show an even larger real per capita increase.

What is happening is that the average state taxpayer is investing moderately more in higher education, but that sum is being dividided among a much larger fraction of the population that wants to avail itself of higher education, and to some extent also into a much fancy-schmancier higher education experience (star profs, LEED buildings, etc.)

If Goldy really wants to return to buying the same higher education we did 30 years ago, that's fine by me. I think far too many people are going to college anyway.
Posted by David Wright on January 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM · Report this
29
@28 - You fail to account for productivity growth (i.e. gross state product) over the same period. If the same portion of our economic output was still being invested in future productivity (in things like higher education) there would be no problem funding additional slots for more WA students. Instead we're trading future growth for lower taxes on the rich.
Posted by cloudveil1 on January 18, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
30
@28 - Note also that total cost per student is basically flat for the past 20+ years (see Goldy's first link). The buildings may be nicer, the profs more accomplished - all good things, by the way - but it's not costing more overall per student.
Posted by cloudveil1 on January 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
31
@22 re @18
I was looking for this link. finally found it.
http://crosscut.com/2011/08/11/washingto…
(am I going to get slaughtered for posting a like like this?)
This article seems like an easy summary of some of the things that state govt does now that it did not before. yes, more things, and things got more expensive as well.
I'm all for less expensive state-funded public education, but something has to give, somewhere. I'm only trying to point out that the general fund is limited, and we can't have everything we want.
Posted by semi-crepuscular on January 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
32
@31 (@22 re @18) You say "something has to give". But we're in this place because WA's tax code - with its huge reliance on sales taxes - doesn't collect the same revenue it used to.

People spend way more on (mostly untaxed) services these days, or buy goods on the internet (often untaxed). If we had a tax code that keeps up with economic growth (yes, I'm talking an income tax here), we wouldn't be in the revenue bind we are today. And it would cost taxpayers no more, on a relative basis, than it did 30 years ago.

Sales taxes also mean the poor in WA pay incredibly high tax rates, while the wealthy pretty much skate right by. Something has to give - namely: the rich need to give more (pay higher tax rates), and the poor less (lower tax rates).

Posted by cloudveil1 on January 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 33
@6 - If they want a high-paying job later in life, yes. You don't have to be a stellar student to eke out a B average in college, and that makes you far more employable than never having gone.
Posted by Free Lunch on January 18, 2013 at 8:12 PM · Report this
34
@33 So I've been told. I don't think it's true, though.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 19, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Report this
35
@34 You'll earn significantly more lifetime. Because there are so many college graduates, almost every decently paying job with health insurance, including those of something like a secretary in a mediocre office, all require degrees, even if it's totally irrelevant to your ability to do the job. It's ridiculous, but it's used as a baseline to weed out a huge chunk of the population simply because it's easy to do. It's a free IQ test for your employers, why not use it?
Posted by gnot on January 19, 2013 at 9:08 PM · Report this
36
@35, I would say less an IQ test than a measure of one's ability to complete a sustained task, reach a goal, work with others, use the internet/word processing programs, etc.

We all know dumb people with a 4-year degree. We all know bright people who barely finished high school.
Posted by clashfan on January 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM · Report this
37
@6, 12
Your description of college sounds like what I experienced in high school.

I went to a state university (and not a name-brand one), but I was still fortunate enough to find a group of students interested, not just in getting good grades, but in learning and mastering ideas. I discovered the pleasures of intellectual exploration, in and out of the classroom. I morphed from being a B-C student in high school to graduating college with honors, then going on to get three graduate degrees.

Some of the chage is due to more maturity on my part. Some was luck, because I was admitted to the university's honors program based upon my test scores rather than my high school GPA. But, yes, college was a transformative experience for me, and as a teacher with nearly 25 years in a high-school environment, I've seen it transform many, many students, too. First, though, they have to be able to afford it.
Posted by Clayton on January 21, 2013 at 11:25 AM · Report this

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