Office of the President

April 10, 2009

The state budget and UW tuition


Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

By now most of you have heard about the potential need to increase tuition because of the severe cuts in our state support. I am writing to clarify why this may need to happen and to explain the potential impacts.

Nobody, certainly not me, likes to raise tuition. We support a significant increase only because of the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves. The proposed cuts to higher education in our state are enormous, ranging from 23 percent in the Senate’s proposal to 31 percent in the House’s. Reductions of this magnitude would eliminate 10,000 student openings across higher education in the state, while at the same time significantly increasing the time it takes for students to receive their degrees. Instead of graduating on time, students would have to stay—and pay tuition for—an extra quarter or two to get the classes they need to graduate. Moreover, without some partial relief, these cuts would greatly diminish the quality of the educational experience at the UW. There would be larger classes, fewer courses offered, and fewer support services available to students, including advising.

While we continue to argue aggressively for more state support, the fact is that our state faces a huge budget shortfall that makes some cuts necessary. We must consider larger tuition increases as one of the ways to reduce the damage these cuts would cause.

We support Governor Gregoire’s proposal for a 14 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduates during both years of the upcoming biennium. For next year, this would amount to about $875. Currently, the UW has the lowest tuition among our peers. An increase of $875 would not change that. For 2010-11, tuition would increase an additional $1,000. We have not made any decisions about graduate and professional school tuition or nonresident tuition.

While increasing costs during these tough times is regrettable, we are fortunate to have significantly increased financial aid to help thousands of students and their families manage these increases. Indeed, for many, their out-of-pocket costs will not go up at all, depending on a student’s annual household income. Our analysis shows that, with increased financial aid plus the expanded federal educational tax credit, students from households making less than $160,000 a year would not face additional out-of-pocket costs with a tuition increase of 14 percent in 2009-10. Families at the lowest income levels with taxes below $2,500 could actually receive a rebate of up to $1,000 with the expanded federal tuition tax credit. For 2010-11, our analysis shows that there would be no appreciable impact of an additional 14 percent tuition increase for families making less than $96,000 a year. This helpful chart illustrates how tuition increases would be offset for families at different annual income levels over the next two years.

We remain committed to the Husky Promise program, which guarantees zero tuition for our neediest students, those eligible for state need grants and Pell grants. Currently, twenty percent of resident undergraduates are Husky Promise students and pay no tuition.

If tuition were to increase as proposed, it would significantly mitigate the size of the budget cuts we face. The net effect, for example, of the increase in tuition and the Senate level cut of 23 percent would be an 11 percent overall reduction. That is still substantial and serious, but it is far more manageable than a cut of twice that size. Our over-arching goal is to make sure our students get what they pay for: a first-rate education at this great university.



Mark A. Emmert