This one goes out to all the policy junkies in the room – if you stop here, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving next week and hope you enjoyed your Veteran’s Day weekend.
The ASUW has a strong history of advocating for access to higher education and reduced costs for students. From negotiating reduced ticket prices to football games, to our successful lobbying efforts in preventing program fees for Business and Engineering students, to playing a key role in the recent two year tuition freeze for resident undergrads, student efforts have made a difference.
We believe that no student should have to forgo an education at the University of Washington due to an inability to pay. In past years, this principle was challenged when the state previously disinvested in higher education causing a slew of double-digit tuition increases. We should all be proud of our legislature for bucking that trend in the most recent biennium, but the impact is still felt; in 2008, the average student loan debt among borrowers was $16,481, compared to $20,316 in 2013.
The effect is often greatest among those with the greatest unmet need; some of our own research shows that a student from a middle class family would need to work 32 hours a week to pay for the full cost of education here, even if their family was able to contribute the full amount expected of them by the FAFSA. Clearly, a comprehensive financial aid program is more important than ever as we continue to advocate for affordable tuition and increased funding of higher education.
We’ve started the Student Debt Reduction Working Group to learn more about this issue. We will spend the next several months developing a clearer picture of how the recent tuition increases, and other increases in cost of education, have affected students at the University of Washington. Our goal is to find the most effective way the State of Washington and the UW could direct new and existing resources towards access and affordability for students. Once we’ve got a picture of those policies, it will be up to us and future generations of student leaders to advocate for them.
Another goal of the group will be to run a campaign for financial aid literacy. We need to be educated on what the differences are between certain types of loans, the common ways to pay them off, and generally what it will mean to take out debt. I believe this will give more students an opportunity to fill out a FAFSA on time and empower us to make solid financial decisions.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if these issues are interesting to you; we need to hear from students to be effective, and there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved in these efforts moving forward.
Some sources and interesting articles:
Paying for Higher Education in the University of Washington by Income Level https://docs.google.com/a/uw.edu/file/d/0B1gcuwJkY1LyMEN3MlJoQ3A1RTg/edit?pli=1
(linking below because it contains current numbers on student debt)