It is almost surreal to think that the check graduating seniors at the University of Washington just wrote to pay for last spring quarter's tuition was 55 percent more than what they paid as first-year students only four years ago. Undergraduate in-state tuition and mandatory fees totaled $6,802 in 2008. Last year it totaled $10,574. This year it will be $12,385.
The tuition increases for graduate students are in some cases much worse. While many variables, such as the economic recession and declining state revenues, have contributed to these unprecedented tuition hikes, the underlying narrative is clear. Public higher education in our state has not been made a priority and is now at a critical juncture.
As representatives of more than 40,000 students at the University of Washington, we hope to convey the urgent need for a renaissance of fervent support for higher education at all levels: within our academic institutions, within our state Legislature and among the public.
Not all states have cut higher-education funding. Seven states, including Illinois, North Carolina and North Dakota, increased education appropriations between 2006 and 2011. Such investments send a strong message to the public that investment in higher education is not a luxury we enjoy during good economic times but, rather, a necessity for our shared economic and intellectual future.