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Originally published September 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM | Page modified September 14, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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UW, WSU rankings: the cost of slipping support for higher education

The University of Washington and Washington State University slip in a key national ranking, further evidence that the state's declining support comes at a cost.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Corrected version

Those closely watched college rankings are out and the most important take-away is that the University of Washington and Washington State University remain among the best academic deals in the country.

The two research institutions slipped slightly in the U.S. News & World Report's 2013 edition of Best Colleges, which compares schools on how well they offer a full range of undergraduate majors, graduate programs and groundbreaking research.

The UW slipped in the magazine's rankings to 46th from 42nd last year and 41st the year before. WSU fell to 125th, from 115th place in 2012 and 111th in 2011. The trend is going in the wrong direction.

Moreover, it is a direct correlation to this state's treatment of higher education in recent years.

The state Legislature has reduced financial support for higher education over the past two decades. In the past five years alone, funding has been cut nearly in half. That kind of disinvestment comes at a cost to universities' quality and access. Programs and other important offerings get cut to respond to tighter budgets.

Credit UW President Michael Young and his WSU counterpart, Elson Floyd, for doing an impressive job maintaining quality, access and diversity while absorbing steep cuts. The UW and WSU are this state's academic powerhouses and our state must do better by them. Among national liberal arts colleges, Whitman College in Walla Walla was ranked 43rd and University of Puget Sound in Tacoma was ranked 83rd.

This state's other four-year institutions were compared with their peers in Western states rather than on a national scale. Western Washington University came in third and The Evergreen State College ranked fifth. This state's private institutions showed well. Gonzaga University and Whitworth University were in the top 10, Gonzaga in fourth place and Whitworth at number nine.

College rankings are quirky annual exercises that we can learn from.

An earlier version of this story, published at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, was corrected at 2:59 p.m. on Sept. 14. The previous version incorrectly said that except for the University of Washington and Washington State University, this state's four-year institutions were compared regionally rather than on a national scale. Whitman College in Walla Walla and University of Puget Sound in Tacoma were ranked nationally, coming in at 43rd and 83rd among national liberal arts colleges.

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