State budget cuts have driven up the price of college — even as total costs have declined.
During the 1989-90 academic year, yearly full-time tuition and fees totaled $3,621 at University of Washington (UW) or Washington State University (WSU). That covered about 16% of the $22,100 total yearly cost per student, with state funds making up the difference. At Western, Central and Eastern Washington University (the state’s comprehensive universities), tuition and fees averaged $3,009 — about 21% of the $14,500 total. Tuition and fees at community and technical colleges (CTCs) were just $1,629, or about 22% of the $7,350 total.
At four-year institutions, the total yearly cost per student has actually declined since then (by $3,000 at UW, $2,500 at WSU, and $700 at WWU/CWU/EWU) — but state legislators have steadily (and sometimes dramatically) cut funding for higher education over the years. As the state’s share of costs has declined, the student’s share (paid in tuition and fees) has risen, driving up the price of a college education for students and their families.
In 2017-18, tuition and fees are $11,000/year at UW or WSU, covering 61% and 57% of the total yearly cost per student, respectively. At the comprehensives, tuition and fees average $7,641, which represents 55% of the $13,800 total. And at CTCs (where the total yearly cost per student has increased by $2,150 since 1989-90) tuition has risen by $2,307 to $3,936, budget cuts have reduced the state’s share from 78% to 59% of the total.
(Notes: All amounts shown in 2017 dollars. Student vs. state share of costs for 2017-18 is based on average FTE student enrollment increases for previous 3 years. Additional fees, like technology or lab fees, vary by campus and are not shown.)