Losing By Degrees

Rising Costs and Public Disinvestment in Higher Education

Washington’s public colleges and universities are a critical resource for building a prosperous future for our state and fulfilling the promise of opportunity for all. Without strong public institutions of higher education, our youth will be stymied in striving to reach their full potential, and our state will not remain competitive in the global economy.

Yet over the past two decades, the state’s financial support for higher education has not kept pace with population growth and rising costs. Public institutions differ from private colleges and universities in their commitment to providing access to higher education and improving the well-being of all state residents.

The University of Washington, in its statement of values, describes “Being Public” as follows: “As a public university we are deeply committed to serving all our citizens. We collaborate with partners from around the world to bring knowledge and discovery home to elevate the quality of lives of Washingtonians.”

As centers of education, research, and innovation, public colleges and universities spur economic development throughout the state. Washington’s business leaders have long expressed the need for a more highly trained workforce, with more public investment in every level of education, from preschool through graduate study. Governor Christine Gregoire said in her 2009-11 Budget Proposal, “Washington’s public colleges and universities are the economic engine that drives the state’s economy and will drive our recovery.”

To build a strong foundation for Washington’s future, we must increase public investment in higher education as a part of upgrading our whole public education system. Doing so will require identifying new sources of public revenue.

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