At a rare evening meeting yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed their version of the 2009-11 operating budget almost two weeks to the day the proposal was unveiled on March 30. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) sponsored an amendment which would increase tuition for resident undergraduates by 14% per year for the next biennium as recommended by the Governor last week. The amendment also requires each higher education institution to use one seventh of the additional tuition revenue for increased financial aid for resident undergraduates. Increased tuition revenue is intended to mitigate much of the enrollment reduction proposed in the Senate budget as introduced in March. The tuition amendment passed 13-8 on a straight party-line vote.
Senator Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) offered an alternative to the tuition increase amendment by proposing to reduce institutionally granted tuition waivers by 50% and to use the “freed-up” revenue to buy back proposed enrollment cuts. That amendment was defeated on a voice vote.
As you know, the UW has been advocating for increased tuition as a way to mitigate the impact of the Senate’s proposed 23% reduction in state support. The House budget which passed their fiscal committee last week calls for 10% per year resident undergraduate tuition, but proposes a 31% reduction in state support. Senate and House budget negotiators are continuing to meet in private to reach consensus on an overall biennial spending plan as the last day of session is now 11 days away.