Office of Planning and Budgeting

Last summer, Governor Gregoire created a Higher Education Task force, comprising both public and private leaders, and charged them with proposing a new funding strategy for public higher education, as well as new ideas for increasing institutional accountability. The Task Force released its report yesterday, January 3rd, recommending three major reforms to higher education policy in Washington State.

First, the group suggested that tuition setting authority be given to the universities to help make up for budget cuts from the legislature. Based on their proposal, the institutions would use a formula to determine appropriate tuition rates, taking into account state appropriations, tuition at peer institutions, and enrollment levels.

Second, the Task Force proposed the creation of a Washington Pledge Scholarship Program, which would be funded by private donors. They hope the fund would reach $ 1 billion by the end of the decade. Corporations would receive a tax credit for donating, although that benefit would not kick in until overall tax revenue returned to 2008 levels.

Third, they recommended that the state give cash incentives to universities that meet certain degree production targets. In addition, they encourage universities to make plans to reach retention goals set forth by the state.

Finally, the Task Force listed other money-saving strategies, such as including more online introductory-level classes, developing three-year degrees, giving more credit for college-level work done in high school and at other institutions, and eliminating underused degree programs.

Make sure to check the State Relations blog for a round-up of some of the local press coverage relating to this report.

Mirroring previous findings, the American Council on Education (ACE) released results from a survey of recent college graduates that confirms a high level of satisfaction with the quality and utility of American higher education, but also reflects a growing sense that students and families should take more responsibility for paying for higher education.

Among the findings:

  • 89 percent believed their education was worth it—even after considering the time and money required to attend.
  • 28 percent said that preparing a student for a career was the primary goal of a higher education, while 31 percent said that learning to think critically was the most important role.
  • 40 percent stated that the student and family should be primarily responsible for funding a higher education, followed by the federal and state governments.

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