Our nation’s leaders have made a commitment to the prosperity of the middle class. Even this week, our President stated his top priority is to “do everything in [his] power to fight for the middle class.”
However, it is often the middle class that leaves their education with the most debt. A 2012 study of the American Sociological Association found that students from middle income backgrounds graduate with an average of $6000 more debt than their lower income peers, and about $10,000 more debt than their upper income peers.
The University of Washington is not sheltered from this problem. Here, “grant aid” stops at around $15000 Estimated Family Contribution, calculated by the FAFSA. This is better than past years, but we can do more. I still hear many stories of students that are loading up student debt because their families’ resources are limited and they don’t get any financial aid.
Here is what I propose we do about it:
1. Repeal the ability for the University of Washington to charge differential tuition.
A proposed policy of the University of Washington is to charge Engineering and Business majors $3000-$5000 extra per year for their education. There are some benefits to this, such as giving the UW ability to expand these programs and increase their quality, but ultimately, middle class students would be paying for it. Tuition increases hurt those without ability to pay or financial aid assistance the most. I believe it would squeeze these students out from these majors and force them to look to other fields of study.
That’s why I’m excited to advocate for HB 1043, which prevents the UW from charging differential tuition to resident undergrads based on fields of study. E-mail our Office of Government Relations at email@example.com if you would like to join the efforts to pass this bill!
2. Preserve GET, the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.
There has been some talk in Olympia of eliminating GET (does anyone else think the term ‘Education Tuition’ is redundant?). I think this would be a bad move if we truly want to support middle class access to higher education. GET allows families to buy credits of tuition at near-current prices, allowing them to pay for tuition at this year’s rate. With the way tuition has been increasing lately, this is a great investment – I have a friend whose parents paid his whole tuition for about $20,000. While GET may not be accessible to everyone, it is largely middle class families that benefit from it. Furthermore, it gives the state incentive to keep tuition low, because it costs them more money when tuition increases. For more information, check out this post.
3. Create an aid program like the Middle Class Action Plan.
It is unfortunate to say that the Cal system seems to be leading us in the area of middle class financial aid. They have recently implemented the Middle Class Action Plan, which restricts family contribution to resident undergraduate cost of education to 15% of their total income. So, for example, if you came from a family that makes $100,000 per year, your parents would only need to pay $15,000 towards tuition, books, and housing, which costs about $30,000 at UW. It works for a stated income range of $80,000 to $140,000 (and their financial aid for below $80,000 was already fairly comprehensive).
They were even able to fund it without state support, through philanthropic donations and admitting increased amounts of non-resident students (they also qualify for the program, but only the resident costs – see this article for more info). This is pretty revolutionary, and while I think our own income range for a program like this would be a little lower, it seems completely feasible to implement.
Let’s see if we can’t make something like this work for us at UW. If you feel the same way, and you want the UW administration to know about it, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for this week! I will continue to work as hard as I can, along with the rest of our ASUW advocacy team, to make the above things happen and bring the cost of education down for all Huskies.