On its Sunday (May 19) opinion page, the Everett Herald published an editorial making the case that higher education is key to the state’s economy. The editorial opens with this point:
The mainspring for landing the Boeing 777X in Washington is higher ed and addressing the skills gap in engineering and technology. The best social program for self-sufficiency, the best business strategy for curtailing unemployment and goosing the economy, is higher ed.
The editorial goes on to cite a range of data that points to the need to reinvest in higher education in our state:
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington ranks 37th in public bachelors’ degrees produced per 1,000. Washington falls to 49th in participation in public graduate education. The state also sits, 49 out of 50, in total education funding per student. At UCLA, in a state that defines budget austerity, per-student funding is $11,850 compared to $6,751 at the UW.
For a generation in Washington, the cost (or funding per student) has remained flat. As state support nosedived, tuition ticked up to bridge the divide, pricing out many low and middle-income kids. In 2013, even after four years of double-digit tuition spikes, funding per student at places like the UW is $3,000 less (!) than it was in 2008.
We know the solution. Washington should appropriate $225 million to freeze resident undergrad tuition for the next two years, to make college a manageable option for middle class students. Student financial aid must be fully funded. And boosting capacity in engineering and computer science to align with student demand, a proposal floated by the Washington Roundtable, is the low-hanging strategy to remedy the skills crisis.