From the Senate Democratic Committee
Looking for powerful instruments to protect and rebuild Washington’s higher education system, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills to help students, parents and our two- and four-year institutions.
Ranker joined fellow legislators Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, last week in an effort to underscore the Legislature’s responsibility to ensure that students can pursue the fields they are most interested in. Sen . Kohl-Welles’ bill calls for a 2-year tuition freeze; Sen. Frockt’s bill is a long-term funding strategy that, among other things, would incentivize institutions to keep tuition low. Keeping tuition low and adequately funding the higher education system are the two most important steps the Legislature can take to preserve GET.
“Middle class prosperity is built through higher education,” said Ranker. “Our public higher education institutions are a crucial pathway to success and we need to make sure they remain affordable and accessible for the next generation without breaking the bank.”
On Monday Ranker introduced two of three bills he intends to sponsor aimed at making higher education affordable and accessible:
SB 5544 would create an online higher education transfer and student advising system. At least 40 other states have some level of web-based advising in place. Washington is one of the few states without an online transfer & advising system. This idea has been proposed several times by the Higher Education Coordinating Board (now Student Achievement Council), but was never implemented due to budget constraints.
SB 5548 would eliminate institutions’ authority to charge higher tuition rates for degree programs that are more expensive to offers, such as engineering. Differential tuition authority threatens the viability of the GET program because the value of a GET units is pegged to the highest tuition rates at public institutions in the state. “While I agree the state needs to do more to fund its goal of increasing STEM degrees, differential tuition is not the right approach–not only due to its devastating impacts to the GET program, but also because I believe that high-demand degree programs should be open to all students, regardless of their ability to pay more for more expensive degrees,” said Ranker.
Ranker’s third bill, expected later this week, addresses the credit limit students receiving State Need Grant run up against when circumstances, such as having to waitlist a number of classes required for their program, result in the student exceeding the SNG credit limit.