Historical Overview*

1977-1995

Legislature Links Tuition Rates to the Cost of Instruction

Between 1977 and 1995, the Legislature established tuition rates as a percentage of the cost of instruction.  In 1977, when this approach was enacted by the Legislature, a Carnegie Commission study determined that nationally tuition covered 24 percent of the cost of instruction at public higher education institutions.  The Commission recommended that this approach be increased to 33 percent within 10 years.

Under this "cost-sharing" approach, the student contributed a portion of the cost and the state provided the remainder.  Cost-sharing assumes that both the student and society benefits from having an educated and productive citizenry.

To determine undergraduate and graduate instructional costs, the Legislature directed the Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop and perform a cost study every four years.  Using cost study data, the HECB transmitted to the institutions the cost basis which tuition would be established.

1995-1999

Legislature Sets Tuition in Statute

In 1995, the Legislature removed the direct link to the cost of instruction and instead set tuition in statute as dollar amounts for each public institution.  Although 1995 legislative intent stated that the tuition increases of 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 were a "transition measure until final action is taken in 1997," the practice of specifying dollar amounts was continued through the 1997-1999 biennium.

...Tuition amounts (or percentage increases) specified in statute have referred only to the "tuition" portion of tuition and fees.  Additional fees, i.e., services and activities fees and technology fees, may be assessed.  State statutes establish maximum amounts that can be charged for these additional fees - which vary by institution.

1999-2001

Legislature Gives Limited Tuition-Setting Authority to Institutions

For the first time, in academic year 2000, the Legislature gave institutions limited local tuition-setting authority, within maximums set by the Legislature and the Governor.  The 1999-2001 operating budget provided that tuition could be increased by the institutions by no more than 4.6 percent in the 1999-2000 academic year and no more than 3.6 percent in the 2000-2001 academic year.

2001-2002 Academic Year

Limited Tuition Setting Authority Continues for Institutions

The Legislature and Governor continued to give institutions limited local tuition-setting authority in academic year 2001-02, with tuition increases authorized up to 6.7 percent. However, maximum tuition increases for graduate programs of law and business were set at 12 percent, and the University of Washington was allowed to increase tuition up to 15 percent for its graduate business programs.

2002-2003 Academic Year

Limited Tuition Setting Authority for Resident Undergraduates, Other Categories Unlimited

Institutions were allowed specified maximum percentage increases (above the prior year’s tuition) for resident undergraduates, as follows:
 

  • Research Universities (UW and WSU) 16 percent
  • Comprehensive Institutions (CWU, EWU, TESC, WWU) 14 percent
  • Community Colleges 12 percent
     

These increases were among the highest for any year in the previous decade. And, in all cases, the institutions found it necessary to raise tuition to the allowable maximum. For other student categories – graduate and professional students and all nonresident students – no maximum was placed on allowable tuition increases. In 2002-03, Washington’s community colleges changed the basis of tuition from a full-time/ part-time basis to a per-credit hour base. Tuition and fees reported here reflect the amount charged to a student taking 15 credit hours per term.

2003-2005 Biennium

Limited Tuition Setting Authority up to 7 Percent for Resident Undergraduates, Other Categories Unlimited

For six years (2003-04 through 2008-09), institutions may reduce or increase full-time tuition or all students except resident undergraduates. Increases may exceed the fiscal growth factor ( 5448). For resident undergraduates, the 2003 budget specifies an increase no greater than 7 percent in academic years 2003-04 and 2004-05 at both four-year institutions and community colleges.

2005-2007 Academic Year

Limited Tuition Setting Authority for Resident Undergraduates, Other Categories Unlimited

For resident undergraduates, the budget specifies an increase of no greater than 7 percent for each year of the biennium at the research universities, 6 percent at the comprehensive institutions, and 5 percent at the community and technical colleges. As specified in the 2007-09 budget, institutions continue to have unlimited tuition-setting authority for all other student tuition categories through 2008-09. The table on the following page compares tuition increases for the past two years for each public four-year institution and for the community colleges.

2007-08

Tuition fees increase limitations - State funding goals - Reports - "Global challenge states."

(1) Beginning with the 2007-08 academic year and ending with the 2016-17 academic year, tuition fees charged to full-time resident undergraduate students may increase no greater than seven percent over the previous academic year in any institution of higher education. Annual reductions or increases in full-time tuition fees for resident undergraduate students shall be as provided in the omnibus appropriations act, within the seven percent increase limit established in this section.

2011-12

Institutions of Higher Education are Granted Authority to Raise Tuition Beyond the Level Set in the Omnibus Appropriations Act

 

RCW 28B. 15. 068

Tuition fees increase limitations - State funding goals - Reports - "Global challenge states."

(1) Beginning with the 2007-08 academic year and ending with the 2016-17 academic year, tuition fees charged to full-time resident undergraduate students may increase no greater than seven percent over the previous academic year in any institution of higher education. Annual reductions or increases in full-time tuition fees for resident undergraduate students shall be as provided in the omnibus appropriations act, within the seven percent increase limit established in this section.

*Excerpts from Higher Education Coordinating Board "2006-2007 Washington State Tuition and Fee Report," and RCW.

Page Updated 03.05.2012