On Wednesday, July 11, the University of Washington (UW) heard from one of the president’s administrative officials regarding higher education and the need for funding. Martha J. Kanter, Undersecretary of Education, spoke at Kane Hall to many students and faculty of the university, telling state leaders to slow tuition increases in order to have more students finish each year.
Kanter was nominated by President Obama in 2009 to be the Undersecretary of Education. Her responsibilities involve postsecondary education, adult and career-technical education, federal student aid and several initiatives. She is working with the Secretary of Education to make the United States “the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020.”
In her address at UW, Kanter compared the United States’ higher education to the rest of the world, explaining that 13 other nations now have a higher percentage of people with college degrees.
Recently, President Obama has proposed offering a Race to the Top—a program used to encourage reform and creativity in higher education. States compete to win points in different criteria, such as “Great Teachers and Leaders,” “Standards and Assessments” and “Turning Around Lowest-Achieving Schools.”
Each category has a number of points a state can earn. The total points from each category are added up for the total points the state earns. Grants are given to the states that earn the most points. In “Round One” of this competition, Washington State did not apply to take part; therefore, Washington didn’t win or receive any grants.
Many public universities and colleges receive most of their money from grants from state allocations and student tuition. Bellevue College is not an exception.
“Forty-two percent [of Bellevue College’s budget] comes from the State of Washington. The remainder is student tuition, some grants and other places,” said Interim President Laura Saunders.
Kanter also explained how the Department of Education wants to find ways to speed up the time it takes a student to earn a degree so that individuals can have the education they need and be able to step into the workplace quickly.
President Saunders explained, “How do we get students through to the top? We not only want to get them in [college], but we want to get them out [of college]. The state economy is not recovering as fast as anyone would like. All employees [at Bellevue College] are undergoing a three percent salary deduction, effective July 1, and nobody’s happy about it.
“I think we’re all aware of the impact of the tuition increases and the impact it has on students. One small measure we took this year is that we decided we would not raise any class fees. We decided to keep them the same, recognizing that tuition went up 12 percent.”
Other significant participants at the meeting with Undersecretary Kanter included UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce, State Senator Ed Murray and Nancy Truitt Pierce, a former Everett Community College trustee.