SEATTLE - The University of Washington plans to vote on a proposal to raise tuition 20 percent this fall, while Central Washington University and Western Washington University on Friday approved double-digit tuition hikes.
UW is also considering a plan to use much of that increase to pay for more scholarships, restore class offerings and reopen the school's writing and learning centers.
If the proposed increase at UW is approved this month, in-state undergraduate tuition will increase from $8,700 to $10,574 this fall, The Seattle Times reported Friday.
That's a little more than 20 percent, because it also includes a hike in mandatory student fees.
Students at UW said the increases will be difficult to absorb. Going to UW already costs about $24,000 a year, including books and room and board.
"Twenty percent would be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of students," said undergraduate student-body president Madeleine McKenna.
She noted that UW doesn't know how burdensome previous tuition increases have been because half of all UW students don't fill out the federal financial-aid form that provides a complete picture of a family's financial resources.
McKenna acknowledged, however, that tuition increases are part of a balancing act between quality, access and affordability.
UW tuition and fees would still be lower than the total bill at Washington State University, which recently decided on a 16 percent increase.
In addition, university officials said UW still has lower tuition than the average charged by comparable schools in other states.
Western Washington University's board of trustees approved a16 percent increase Friday. Central Washington University approved a 14 percent increase. The Evergreen State College is also considering a 14 percent increase and Eastern Washington University plans to raise tuition by 11 percent.
A new state tuition-setting law requires schools that go beyond the rate budgeted by the Legislature to put more money into financial aid. With a 20 percent increase, UW would be required to set aside 5 percent of all tuition revenue, or about $17.2 million, for financial aid.
Amira Davis, president of the student body at UW-Bothell, said students are working longer hours while going to school, or attending part-time, to make up for two years of back-to-back tuition increases of 14 percent.
"We are all taking this hit and suffering as students," she said.
Tuition is skyrocketing because the Legislature has dramatically cut state dollars going to higher education. Over the past three years, the amount of money UW receives from the state has fallen 50 percent. The school has eliminated hundreds of positions, cut classes, increased class sizes and frozen faculty salaries for the past two years. Under the current budget, faculty salaries will be frozen for two more years.
A 20 percent increase would allow UW to restore or increase hundreds of class offerings and expand hours or reopen the school's writing and learning centers, said vice provost Paul Jenny, of the UW office of planning and budgeting.
Jenny also outlined a proposal to have about half the money raised through the tuition hike added to financial aid. That would raise enough money to cover the tuition increase for the neediest students as well as providing award grants of up to $4,000 for as many as 1,000 students, going beyond what the state required and helping some middle-class students, Jenny said.
The board also looked at a 16 percent increase -- the amount budgeted by the Legislature -- and a 22 percent increase, which would raise tuition and fees to $10,737 a year.
"Nothing about tuition increases is good, and nothing about losing the quality of education is good," said Regents chairman Herb Simon. "At 20 percent, the middle class will get the biggest bang for the buck."