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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pulling Up the Ladder Behind Them

Posted by on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 8:40 AM

  • source: economic opportunity institute
  • Such a deal: What a selection of state lawmakers paid their freshman year in college, adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars.

"It's still a heck of a value," state Senate "Majority" Leader Rodney Tom said in October about skyrocketing tuition at Washington's public universities. Yeah, to somebody who lives in a Medina mansion, maybe. Or better yet, somebody who still lives in 1981.

Back when Tom entered his freshman year at the University of Washington, he paid a total of $1,059 in annual tuition and fees. But that was more than three decades ago. Inflation, right?

Not exactly. Adjusted for inflation, Tom's freshman year at the UW cost just $2,507 in 2012 dollars. That's actually a couple hundred dollars a year less than what House Majority Leader Frank Chopp paid for his freshman year a decade earlier, and about one-fifth the price UW students are paying today for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Now that's a heck of a value. And the same is true of the dozens of state lawmakers who got where they are today thanks to an affordable higher education at one of Washington state's public universities, colleges, and technical schools. Indeed, just to avoid accusations of cherry-picking the chart above includes Senator Joe Fain, the legislature's most recent state university grad, who paid just $4,793 in inflation adjusted tuition and fees just 13 academic years ago. But Fain is the exception. Most sitting lawmakers paid considerably less.

And to be absolutely clear: It's not the cost of a college education that's been skyrocketing, but the price. Adjusted for inflation, total spending per full-time student at Washington's public universities has remained relatively flat over the past two decades: About $18,000 a year. But as state funding has tanked—dropping from 70 percent of total spending per full-time student a decade ago to only 30 percent today—tuition has been hiked to make up the difference.

This was not due to inflation. This was due to a political decision by a generation of lawmakers who got theirs, and then decided to pull up the ladder behind them. Something to remember the next Rodney Tom attempts to convince current and future students that they are still getting "a heck of a value."


Comments (21) RSS

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@24 What I'm suggesting putting somebody through four years of college so that he or she can work the cash register at Target is a waste of money.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 1, 2013 at 5:28 PM · Report this
@11 and @14, Texas schmexas - every state in the country has a more progressive tax system than Washington does:

Since most revenue matters in Olympia require two-thirds House and Senate votes for passage, they're hostage to a minority - one-third of senators or representatives - who can block any path toward fairer/more adequate funding for higher ed (or anything else, for that matter).

There may be a way out, though. If Texas really is that progressive, maybe you could do us all a favor here in Washington by convincing Tim "King of Minority Rule" Eyman to move there. Thanks in advance!
Posted by cloudveil1 on January 31, 2013 at 1:42 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 21
@14 "Democratic Leadership," asshole, not "Democrat."

The advantage of income taxes is that they automatically adjust to reduce the burden on people who are not doing as well at any moment. No other tax mechanism does that so neatly.

High property taxes are great if you are employed and in a decent job at age 40 or 50. They SUCK ASS if you are 20 or 70 or just lost your job, and don't have any income.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 31, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
Well, do keep in mind that UW, for its ranking in US News&World Report, as one of the best picks for costs for a great public university, had that ranking because of the low tuition. There is really no way to sustain that kind of quality with low tuition (not and keep great professors).

I'm not saying continuing to raise tuition is the answer but you have to compare good public universities (and Texas is not really in that league).
Posted by westello on January 31, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
BombasticMO 19
Any chance this can get into next week's paper? It's a story that needs massive telling.
Posted by BombasticMO on January 31, 2013 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Here's the thing. Higher Education was once thought of as a good thing -- following your passions and seeing where that took you. We were all equal. I don't give a fuck if someone is studying 17th Century Women's Issues. Good for them. And ruler of the universe, you're a fucking shill ass idiot. Typical "conservative". Never a solution, just hate, indifference and a supreme lack of empathy.

Is it any wonder "liberals" hate motherfuckers like you? You're a self fulfilling prophecy, dude. Your incuriousness and stridency is the EXACT problem you address whilst taking the tack of omnipotence, which doesn't fucking exist, homeboy. Open mind, chief. Open mind.

This is the point of "liberalism" as it once was before your corporate, craven free market messiahs got hold of everything and then went "what? Who, me?". Fuck you, bro. Every human should be afforded an affordable, top notch education.
Posted by ortolan on January 31, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 16
@13: why single out art history? what about criminal justice? how about phys ed?
Posted by Max Solomon on January 31, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Report this
dirac 15
@13 Yes, this opinion is a side effect of the present boring age of promoting STEM at the expense of the liberal arts. I'm a STEM graduate but I believe wholeheartedly in getting a fucking culture (we need to replace ours badly) rather than an iPhone. It's amazing how many so-called skeptics, pro-science people profess intelligence but don't have any real lateral knowledge (real) and what's more galling they select against it so very unscientifically.

So if I see these disparaging remarks (re: "why should my tax dollars help fund your 17th century women's literature nonsense [because everything must be functional, get it?]?", I see it as pathology rather than enlightenment. Just because a narrow world view precludes one from seeing the benefits, doesn't mean it should be discounted.

Posted by dirac on January 31, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this


Democrat Leadership chooses to ignore the use of property (and asset) taxes and phrase the need for more revenue solely as a burden on productive people by use of income taxes and on the lowest paid workers through the use of sales tax.

I shouldn't however group all Democrats together, as Bob Hasegawa has put a bill, HB-2100, to tax intangible assets as property, which is a step in the right direction.

Weekly Map: Sources of State and Local Tax Revenue: Property Tax…

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on January 31, 2013 at 10:26 AM · Report this
littlejilm 13
I'm all for access to higher ed but do I really need to be footing the bill for your Art History degree? How is that helpful for anybody?
Posted by littlejilm on January 31, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
douchus 12

Are you saying that it is Gregoire's (aand the state democrats, by extension) fault that we don't have high enough taxes?
Posted by douchus on January 31, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this

University of Texas Tuition:

Estimated Undergraduate Flat-Rate Tuition and Fees (2012 – 2013)
Texas resident $9, 346 – 10,738
Non-resident $31,756 – 36,396…


Texas, a state which is berated by sniffy Washington Liberals actually has a fairer and more progressive tax structure than Washington State and is able to meet its obligations and provide services like higher education at a lower cost!

1 Point Rick Perry.
0 for Gregoire.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on January 31, 2013 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Hernandez 10
@7 All that's going to do is keep young people who have the aptitude but not the means from ever going to college, and keep the children of the priveleged in college, regardless of their ability or ambition. If you don't think that that six figures of student loan debt is enough to scare off a prospective student from an impoverished background, you're deluded.
Posted by Hernandez on January 31, 2013 at 10:04 AM · Report this

Want lower tuition?

How about paying your property taxes?

Washington State pays about half the property tax of what Texas pays...another state with no income tax that yet does not seem to have trouble meeting its budget and also has a lower sales tax (6.25%)

King County:

Tax Paid as % of Median Home Value 0.95 +/- 0.01%
County Rank (nationally) 454 out of 806 counties

Dallas County (Dallas/Ft. Worth):

Tax Paid as % of Median Home Value 2.12 +/- 0.06%
County Rank (nationally) 53 out of 806 counties

Using one year data, 2010 from:…

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on January 31, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 8
I heard Robert Gates speak at a clean tech/clean energy conference on Monday. He talked about the threats and opportunities presented by energy and natural resource competition, pollution, climate change, etc. and the challenges facing the US. When asked what our biggest concern as a state was - and keep in mind, this is the former Secretary of Defense, one-time head of CIA, and past president of Texas A&M, so I think his worldview should be given some measure of respect - he was damn near shaking with anger at how states, ours in particular, have continued to cut higher ed, trading a short-term fiscal gain for long-term problems. Unfortunately, there were no representatives of our legislature in attendance to be called to task.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 31, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
As of 2010 5% of janitors, 15% of taxi drivers, and 25% of retail sales clerks had at least a bachelor's degree. You can read more about that here:…

Given that we have way more college graduates than our economy needs, maybe it makes sense to shrink the number students by raising tuition? An exclusive club needs a high cover charge to keep out the riffraff.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 31, 2013 at 9:44 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 6
I don't see Governor Eyman's college tuition on your chart.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 31, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
stinky 5
It's all part of a national race to the bottom. The people who control the political process have decided that they want low taxes more than they want a bright future for the masses, and the masses have decided they'd rather watch the game and play with their smartphones than work on regaining control of that process. State support of education requires more money than we can borrow, so it went away.

Whattaya think- nachos or tacos for the big game? Solved: both!

Posted by stinky on January 31, 2013 at 9:32 AM · Report this
sloegin 4
Difference being, 30 years ago work paid off a big chunk of your college costs. My summer job in the 80's covered all of my tuition and books, and a small chunk of my living expenses.

A student today with that job doesn't even manage to cover tuition for one quarter.
Posted by sloegin on January 31, 2013 at 9:32 AM · Report this
And I'll bet they also had Pell grants and other non-loan financial aid to cover much of the cost.
Posted by cracked on January 31, 2013 at 9:27 AM · Report this
I'm conflicted about what to do about higher ed. One idea: maybe let student loans be discharged in bankruptcy. One of the reasons colleges can charge as much as they do is because they know they'll get their money up front from student loans. The government/private companies that make those loans know they'll get their money one way or another because they're not dischargeable in bankruptcy. If they were, you can bet the loans would not be given out hand over fist like they are now, and colleges would have to adjust to that reality. You'd have a lot more people going to comm colleges, working part time and perhaps less debt in the end. But that's how a lot of people did it 30 years ago, when Tom, Chopp etc were in school.
Posted by PoliGeek on January 31, 2013 at 8:50 AM · Report this

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