Over the past several years, Washington state has made deep cuts to public universities and colleges, which has driven up the cost of tuition for students and made it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce. A new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that Washington state cuts to higher education are among the worst in the country. Our state’s failure to invest in public universities and colleges hurts our economy, and shifts education from a shared public investment to a responsibility laid on hard-working students and middle class families.
Since 2008, on a per student basis, Washington state has cut state spending at four-year institutions by nearly 38 percent. Only eight other states have seen more dramatic reductions (see graph below).
State cuts have resulted in significant increases to tuition, putting college out of reach for many families. As the graph below shows, average tuition for students at four-year colleges has skyrocketed. Adjusted for inflation, since fiscal year 2008, tuition has increased by nearly $4,200 – only Arizona has seen a greater increase.
Reducing investments in higher education may save state dollars in the short-run, but will cost the state economy down the line. Young people who are unable to afford a college education will earn less throughout their lifetimes; those who do attend college will be saddled with greater levels of debt which limits a graduate’s range of employment decisions, delays the reaching of lifetime milestones like buying a house, and hampers our future state economy.
Long-term prosperity in Washington state requires an investment in our future workforce. Closing outdated tax breaks, expanding the sales tax to a wider range of services and enacting a state excise tax on capital gains are all opportunities to re-invest in future prosperity and economic success.
CBPP’s full report can be found here.