Office of Planning and Budgeting

The estimated annual cost of attendance for first-year UW undergraduates is now available for the 2016-17 academic year.  Cost of attendance shows estimated expenses by campus for:

  • Tuition
  • Student fees
  • Room & board
  • Books, personal, & transportation

Cost of attendance (COA) is defined by the Higher Education Act.  It is a statutory term that typically refers to the estimated cost for a full-time student to attend an institution of higher education for a standard nine-month academic year.

After accounting for grant and scholarship aid, UW students (particularly resident undergraduates) often pay far less than the estimated COA.  In 2014-15 (the most recent year for which net price data is available), the published price for resident undergraduates at Seattle was $27,112, whereas the net price for first-time, resident undergraduates at Seattle was $9,744.

We will annually update the COA information on our website.

On April 18, Governor Inslee signed the final compromise operating budget after vetoing several sections. One of the Governor’s vetoes reversed a plan to convert activities conducted by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) into a “central service.” As a result of the veto, the UW will no longer be billed approximately $2.03 million from tuition operating fee revenue to cover those services.

Our updated brief is here. Please contact Jed Bradley or Becka Johnson Poppe if you have any questions.

The rising costs of college are a popular subject for everyone from presidential candidates to media outlets. Parents and students blanche as published tuition prices climb ever higher. But the published price – often referred to as the “sticker price” for colleges – offers a misleading picture of the cost of higher education. OPB has updated our brief to reflect the newest available data on published price vs. net price. Highlights include:

  • Sector-wide data on increases in published price and net price for public and private four-year colleges
  • A description of how declining state investment in higher education has spurred tuition increases
  • A table of the top 25 research universities’ net price for resident undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid

Our updated brief is accessible here.


The 2016 Legislature concluded its business having passed supplemental operating and capital budgets before the scheduled close of the 30-day special session. Please see the OPB brief for a detailed overview of the final compromise budgets.

While the compromise operating budget includes $3.513 million in additional biennial funding to “true up” the tuition backfill associated with 2ESB 5954, the increase is partially offset by more than $2 million in new, ongoing, biennial charges for services provided by the Office of Financial Management.

The compromise capital budget does not include any changes for the UW.

Please contact Jed Bradley or Becka Johnson Poppe if you have any questions.

The House and Senate did not come to an agreement on a 2016 supplemental budget by the end of the 60-day regular session, which was slated to end March 10. Several news outlets reported the tense ending, which featured Governor Inslee vetoing 27 bills (see examples here, here, and here). The Governor convened a 30-day special session, which began immediately.

On Friday, leadership in the Senate Ways & Means Committee released a new proposal for a 2016 supplemental operating budget (PSSB 6667). Last month, OPB released a brief comparing the Governor’s proposal, House proposal, and the Senate’s original proposal. That brief outlines the major components of each budget.

Like the Senate’s original proposal, this offer proposes $3.513 million in additional biennial funding to “true up” the tuition backfill associated with 2ESB 5954. However, both Senate proposals would almost entirely negate this additional backfill funding by converting activities conducted by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) into a central service charged to state agencies. Over the biennium, the UW would be charged $1.252 million from its state general fund appropriation and $2.042 million from tuition operating fee revenue for these OFM central services, a total of $3.294 million.

This proposal differs from the original Senate proposal in that it: 

  • Does not cut WWAMI: The original proposal included a cut of $1.2 million
  • Does not fund a proviso for youth suicide prevention at UW’s Forefront: The original proposal allocated $97,000 in FY17 to fund 2SSB 6243, but that bill did not pass the House.
  • Shifts $18 million in cost savings from College Bound (CB) program to State Need Grant (SNG): The original proposal shifted only $14 million, effectively cutting SNG by $4.5 million.

During a press conference responding to this release, leadership in the House emphasized continuing negotiations toward a compromised budget and gave no indication that they would release a public budget offer.

Stay tuned to the OPBlog for updates on proposed budgets.

This week, leadership in the House and Senate released their respective supplemental operating and capital budget proposals for the current biennium (FY16 & FY17), which follow the December release of Governor Jay Inslee’s proposals. As a reminder, the House and Senate proposals will be amended before they pass their respective chambers.

Please see the OPB brief for a detailed comparison of the House, Senate and Governor’s supplemental operating and capital budget proposals.

Some highlights:

  • The budget released by the leadership in the Senate Ways & Means Committee would provide the most funding overall, largely because it includes additional funding for the resident undergraduate tuition reduction backfill associated with 2ESB 5954.
  • None of the three capital budgets provide additional funding for the UW beyond the original 2015-17 capital budget.

Legislators will have until March 10, the last day of session, to complete and pass a compromise budget.

See the table below for a quick comparison of the budget proposals:




The 2016 edition of UW Fast Facts is now available.  You can find it on the OPB website, under the UW Data tab and in the Quicklinks bar on the left, or you can access it directly at UW Fast Facts.

Thank you to OPB’s Institutional Analysis team and to our partners around the UW for their work to gather, verify and crosscheck data; format the document; and pull it all together.

Please contact Becka Johnson Poppe or Stephanie Harris if you have any questions.

Governor Jay Inslee released his supplemental operating and capital budget proposals on Thursday, both of which include technical corrections and minor appropriation changes to the current 2015-17 biennial budgets (fiscal years 2016 and 2017). This budget release marks the first step of the 2016 legislative session – set to begin on Monday, January 11, 2016. As a reminder, the House and the Senate will propose their own supplemental budgets throughout this short 60-day session as they work toward a compromise budget.

As predicted, Governor Inslee’s proposal offers very few changes to ongoing appropriations. In response to the UW’s request, the proposal provides increased expenditure authority for ongoing shellfish biotoxin monitoring work by the UW’s Olympia Regional Harmful Algal Bloom Program, beginning in FY17. If this budget prevailed, the University would also receive $250,000 in additional ongoing funding for the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement program beginning in FY17. The proposal does not make changes to the compensation and benefits assumptions of the 2015-17 operating budget.

For more information, please see our brief on Governor Inslee’s 2016 Supplemental Operating and Capital Budgets.

Undergraduates who graduated with student loan debt from four-year colleges in 2014 owed an average of $28,950, according to a recently released report by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).[1][2] 69 percent of graduates have loan debt, the same figure as last year and slightly higher than it was in 2004 (65 percent). The average amount of debt per borrower is up 56 percent from 2004 – more than double the inflation rate over the same period – but only up 2 percent from 2013.

A number of factors have contributed to the rising student debt load over the past decade. States have decreased their investment in public higher education over the last ten years, causing students at public institutions to bear a higher percentage of the funding burden. Since 2004, the share of public higher education funding provided by states has dropped (from 62 percent to 51 percent) and the share paid by students and their families (in the form of tuition) has increased (from 32 percent to 43 percent).

In addition, the growth of Pell Grants has not kept up with rising costs. The TICAS report shows that between 2004 and 2012—the last year in which data is available—recipients of Pell Grants at public four-year colleges saw average cost of attendance rise by $7,400 and grant aid rise by just $2,900. At private, non-profit colleges the gap is even wider; costs rose by $14,400 and grants increased by $8,700.

Washington state is performing well with regard to student loans: only 58 percent of Washington bachelor’s degree recipients who graduated in 2014 had loans, and those who did had an average of $24,804, more than $4,000 below the national average. The University of Washington also looks good by these metrics: thanks in large part to the University’s commitment to institutional aid through programs such as Husky Promise, less than half of all UW undergraduates who graduated in 2014 had student debt and the average debt burden was $21,558, well below the state and national averages.

While Washington’s performance relative to its peers is laudable, student debt is still a major issue for many students. The TICAS report offers a series of proposals to mitigate the student debt load, among them doubling the size of Pell Grants, simplifying income-driven repayment plans, and improving student loan servicing to make it easier for students to pay back their loans. It is important that policymakers remain focused on reducing the student debt burden and continue working with institutions to make higher education accessible and affordable for all students during and after graduation.




[1] It’s important to note that borrowing rates and debt levels vary widely by state, college and sector.

[2] Because the federal government does not require colleges to report debt levels for their graduates, data in the TICAS report is based on voluntary reporting by institutions. Hardly any for-profit colleges voluntarily report their graduates’ average debt, so this year’s debt figures are for public and nonprofit colleges only.

Reuters recently ranked the UW as the fourth most innovative university in the world among public and private institutions, surpassed only by Stanford, MIT and Harvard.  When looking at public institutions alone, however, the UW topped the list.

As the Seattle Times noted, “The ranking takes into account academic papers, which indicate basic research performed at a university, and patent filings and successes, which point to an institution’s interest in protecting and commercializing its discoveries.”

In addition to the innovation ranking, Washington Monthly recently ranked UW Seattle as the #1 “Best Bang for the Buck” among Western institutions.  Institutions are scored on “’Net’ (not sticker) price, how well they do graduating the students they admit, and whether those students go on to earn at least enough to pay off their loans.”  For more information about the “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings, please see the companion article.

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