Braun tuition-cap bill clears higher- education committee

Washington Education Association opposes tuition cuts for students

Senate Bill 5954, known as the Senate majority’s College Affordability Program, moved quickly through the Senate Higher Education Committee this week. The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, received a public hearing Tuesday and was passed by the committee today. It would reduce tuition by as much as 30 percent at state-run research institutions and cap tuition to a percentage of the state’s average income. This would reverse decades of regular, sometimes double-digit tuition increases and ensure a statutory policy that ties any future growth in tuition to wage growth.

Braun noted the Washington Education Association listed itself as being in opposition to the bill but did not follow through with testimony before the committee Tuesday.

“I don’t see one good reason to oppose this piece of legislation,” Braun said. “I think it is concerning that the association representing educators would oppose a bill that would make college affordable for students. I would have loved an opportunity to hear their concerns but the committee did not get that chance.”

Braun, vice chair of the Senate budget committee, was instrumental in advocating for a tuition freeze in the 2013-15 budget. That gave students relief from regular tuition increases for the first time in more than 30 years.

“Skyrocketing tuition has acted like a tax on the middle class. It’s time we prioritize our state’s investment in education,” Braun said. “We face challenges in this budget cycle, but in the context of a $37 billion budget this investment is doable and will have benefits to our state’s economy. I would hope that everyone concerned about education would support a way to make college more affordable and accessible.”