Public Higher Education Tuition in Washington

State budget cuts have pushed the cost of college out of reach

In 1965, a person working a minimum-wage job over the summer could earn enough to cover college tuition for the following year, because state funding for higher education kept costs affordable. In present-day dollars, yearly tuition was $2,410 for the University of Washington or Washington State University, and just $1467 for a community or technical college.

That began to change in the 1990s, when state legislators cut public spending on higher education to make up for other budget gaps. Washington’s public colleges and universities started charging students more to cover the loss of funding.


The pattern has repeated itself time and time again. Today — even after Washington legislators have restored some of the most recent cuts to higher education funding — the cost of college often requires loan amounts that cause the state’s young people to postpone marriage, home ownership, children, and the American Dream.

As a percentage of the state’s annual median wage, tuition has tripled for a state comprehensive college (Western, Central, or Eastern Washington University, or The Evergreen State College), and quadrupled for research universities like the University of Washington or Washington State University, since 1979.

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