By now you've heard the University of Washington will be raising tuition next fall by 20 percent, the largest increase in UW history. Beginning in September, undergraduates will be asked to pay $10,574 a year to call the themselves Huskies. At the same time, tuition for out-of-state students will be climbing only 10 percent, taking their annual tab for a UW education to $27,230.
The news comes on the heels of a study from the U.S. Department of Education. The agency's annual College Affordability and Transparency report tracks tuition costs in the top and bottom five among two-and-four year schools. It puts things in perspective. While increases at the UW are not included in the report, they appear to be on par with those at Northern New Mexico College, where tuition has gone up 51-percent in the past five years (that said, tuition at NNMC is still only $3,720/year).
According to the study, Haskell Indian Nations University posts the lowest annual tuition rate among the country's four-year public colleges at only $430. Other collegiate bargains include any of Puerto Rico's nine campuses which all have tuition rates at or below $2,000.
Beyond the omission of the University of Washington, there may be other discrepancies with the report. The only Washington school that appears on any of the DOE's College Affordability and Transparency lists is Northwest Indian College, which, according to the report, has posted the largest percentage net increase of any school in the country. According to the DOE study, room, board, tuition and fees at the school now total more than $12,000, an increase of more than 2,324-percent since the 2006-2007 school year. Though, the DOE site contends, the net price to attend at that time (including room and board) was only $484 per year.
These statistics are the latest salvo in the war over the so-called "skills gap." Just as businesses around the country are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified workers, the price of obtaining those skills continues to climb.
William Symonds, director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard University told the Associated Press, "Our system for preparing young adults is broken. We're not saying that the system is failing everybody, but it is leaving a lot of young people behind."
One interesting point in the study - the idea of "college for all" is not realistic. According to the report, many middle-skill jobs do not require a degree form a four-year institution. Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce suggests there will be 47 million jobs over the next few years. In Washington State, the Center projects nearly half of the jobs created will only require an associates degree. That could come as good news to those might not be able to afford the price tag to attend the UW.