On Monday, Governor Gregoire’s Higher Education Task Force released its recommendations.
The Governor asked sixteen business, government and education leaders this past summer to come up with ideas to increase college degree production by 30 percent over the next decade, while dealing with budget deficits.
In addition, she asked the Task Force to sugget long-range budget plans, recommend ways to improve accountability and performance of the state’s colleges and universities, and consider whether changes should be made in the way the state governs its higher education system.
The task force proposed a set of interdependent recommendations. The recommendations include the following:
- The State adopt a new financial formula for the public four-year universities that better combines state budget support with increased flexibility for the universities to set their own tuition rates.
- The State take a new, innovative, and sustainable step to provide financial aid for low- and middle income Washington students who want to attend college by creating the Washington Pledge Scholarship Program.
- The State put in place concrete steps to continue to promote accountability and performance by the State’s public universities.
To achieve these objectives, the Task Force recommends:
- Increasing the number of Washington residents graduating with bachelor’s degrees from Washington’s colleges and universities, especially in high demand fields — science, technology, engineering, and math.
- Providing the universities with increased flexibility to set tuition — linked to the level of state support and to the tuition charged by each institution’s peer colleges.
- Expanding financial assistance to low- and middle- income students through a combination of private and public strategies, including a $1 billion endowment fund and tax incentives.
- Holding each public university accountable for graduating more students with bachelor’s degrees, giving incoming students credit for high school coursework, community college studies and prior learning experiences, and revamping some academic programs.
The Task Force’s recommendations now go to the Washington Legislature via legislation sponsored by the Governor for further consideration.