Higher-ed advocates urge legislature to stop cuts

Feb 4, 2011

Advocates for Washington's universities are presenting a more unified front in Olympia this year. They hope the closer coordination will help them make a stronger case for higher-ed funding. A coalition of groups gathered on the steps of the state capitol Thursday.

A new approach to higher-ed advocacy

Lobbying for higher education in Olympia is traditionally led by its six universities. This time advocates for post-secondary education are taking a page from grass roots groups. The newly formed College Promise Coalition includes students, parents, businesses, and unions.

The main message of their rally: stop the cuts. But advocates like Washington State University President, Elson Floyd did not have a specific proposal for where lawmakers should find more money:

"Legislators will have to figure that out. But what I am convinced of and my colleagues here represent the same, is that we simply should not be cutting what is the economic driver for the recovery that we need in our state."

Where it hurts

Washington lawmakers face a $4.6 billion shortfall over the next two years. They're considering proposals from both legislative bodies and the governor. 

The Olympian's Brad Shannon reports the Senate's proposed budget cuts would take $25 million from the State Needs grant, money that would have to be recouped by tuition hikes at the schools:

University presidents said in many cases they had already awarded grants to their students, making the proposed cut retroactive. “Exactly how we’re able to make up what that cut may be will be a particular challenge for us because our commitments have been made to our students,” said Evergreen State College President Les Purce.

Higher-ed advocates plan events throughout the session. Next week graduate students descend on the capitol.