State budget cuts decided

According to the Seattle Times, higher education funding took a big hit last weekend in the final hours of Washington State’s legislative session. Colleges got operating budget cuts of six to seven percent, tuition increased 14 percent at four year colleges, and over 9000 enrollments at Washington colleges disappeared, based on information available at press time.

What will this mean to you? Harder times, of course.

The worst times, though, will be for the students at four year colleges. They will see a cumulative 30% increase over 2 years.

WSU’s 2008-09 yearly tuition of $6720 will become a 2010-2011 tuition of $8736. UW’s 2008-09 tuition of $6802 will become a 2010-11 tuition of $8843.

That is, if you can get in. 9000 fewer enrollments means less students get admitted to UW and WSU. Better keep your GPA up! Of course, there are four other public universities in Washington, and they are cheaper, so you may want to consider them.

Students in programs they can  complete at Bellevue College have a smaller problem. Here, tuition will increase 14.5% in two years (don’t forget compound interest!) Tuition for 15 credits should increase from $2940 this year to $3336 in 2010-11. Bellevue College will have larger class sizes and longer wait lists than it does now, though.

Is there a silver lining bordering these clouds of doom? Yes. State need grants go to students with the least income. Fully funding these grants will support those students who need the help the most. The state financial aid increase is around 15%. This should offset the increased tuition for lower income students.

Here is the take-home message. As some of you have heard before, the mantra is: get in, get your credits, and get out. Don’t waste any time in finishing your program if you can help it. If you delay, you will only pile up more debt.

Also, unless you are absolutely loaded with money, apply for financial aid. You can do it online, it’s free, and if you have your tax returns handy, along with your parents’, it really doesn’t take very long.

The only real change between last week and this week is that the legislature has spoken. Many predicted bigger cutbacks and more hardship than this. Students who keep focused on the basics — study, work, friends, and family — will do better and be happier than those who dwell on hardship.