The House Higher Education Committee met this morning for the first time this session to address the problems facing higher education for Washingtonians.
Committee Chair Rep. Larry Seaquist (D–Gig Harbor) began the meeting with a simple question – why is Washington state under-educated?
“Washington’s 25-year-olds are less educated than their parents, and less educated than the 25-year-olds in many other countries,” said Seaquist.
After introductions of the committee members, the Student Achievement Council presented their strategic recommendations. The council was created by Legislature last year primarily for the purposes of increasing the level of education attainment for Washingtonians and to identify improvements to the education process.
“We believe that to increase the higher level education attainment, you have to look at the entire system – how it’s aligned, how it’s integrated, how the students at every level are ready for the next level of education,” said Brian Baird, chair of the Washington Student Achievement Council.
The Council presented recommendations developed to address the biggest issues facing higher education:
- student readiness
- the affordability of higher education
- institutional capacity and student success (student-teacher ratios and the effect on student performance)
- technology (eLearning)
Following the presentation by the council, the committee heard from students from both four-year institutions and 2-year community and technical colleges.
“Student investment is paid back in taxes after only two to three years of gainful employment,” said Kailene Sparrs of Clover Park Technical College, speaking on behalf of community and technical colleges. “It’s amazing how many people we put into high-demand fields with these degrees.”
Angie Weiss, a University of Washington student, voiced concerns about differential tuition, which would allow universities to charge additional tuition for majors considered in high demand, such as STEM courses.
“We believe this will create a disincentive for students who are interested in taking these majors that are in high demand, particularly with a chance of a $3,000 to $5,000 tuition increase,” Weiss said.