Majority Coalition Caucus Releases Higher Education Funding Proposal

Yesterday the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released a proposal to increase funding for higher education in Washington.

Overall the proposal would increase funding for all higher education by $300 million in the 2013-15 biennium. This is a 10% increase in funding from the 2011-13 biennium.

The increase includes a 3% decrease in student tuition costs this year, $50 million in performance funding for high demand degrees and other metrics, and an expansion of the State Need Grant program by 7% to serve an additional 4,600 FTE.

In addition by taking these actions the proposal secures GET’s future by eliminating the $621 million unfunded liability and creating a $421 million surplus.

Some of the details of the proposal are identified in Senate Bill 5883. The remaining details, such as how the baseline is defined and how the funds are split over the biennium, will be shared in the Senate’s 2013-15 biennial operating budget proposal expected in the next couple of weeks. Until all the details are known it is unclear how this proposal will impact institutions and students, including Evergreen.

Senate Bill 5883 as summarized by the Caucus:

Baseline Funding

  • Declares that institutions are legally entitled to receive a baseline level of funding
  • Directs that any ivnestments made for new programs or expansions of programs will produce a step adjustment in the per-student rates
  • Directs that any state funds above the rate needed to meet the baseline will be distributed proportionately among the two-year and four-year sectors and be used for performance
  • Declares an intent of the Legislature to, no later than April 26 2015, revisit the baseline funding levels established and determine whether any step adjustments are necessary

Performance Funding

  • Builds on the performance structure established through House Bill 1795 in 2011
  • Provides funding for the four-year public baccalaureates as specified in the state budget based on a three-year average of performance specified in metrics
  • The metrics include: (1) Average time to degree for undergraduate students, (2) Number of undergraduate high-demand degrees, (3) Freshment retention, (4) Low-income populations, and (4) Space utilization
  • Funding is awarded based on a three-year average of improved performance or for those institutions that are the highest performer in the specific metric.
  • Adds space utilization to the dashboard for the public baccalaureates
  • Repeals performance plans and other obsolete statutory language

Tuition-Setting Authority

  • Tuition setting authority for resident undergraduates is maintained through academic year 2018-19 with some changes
  • In Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 tuition is required to be 3% lower than the tuition rates for resident undergraduates in the 2012-13 academic year and;
  • Beginning with the 2015-16 academic year tuition cannot exceed inflation except when state funding to meet the baseline is not provided. In this instance institutions are given the authority to increase resident undergraduate rates by an amount not to exceed the amount necessary to reach the baseline

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