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January 24, 2012 at 5:15 PM

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Higher ed officials press lawmakers to avoid more cuts

Trustees and regents from the state’s colleges and universities spent Tuesday at the Capitol urging lawmakers to prevent further cuts to higher education.

Twenty-eight regents and trustees met with members from the House and Senate higher education committees and Marty Loesch, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff, among others.

Lawmakers cut $500 million from higher education last year, and Gregoire has proposed an additional $160 million cut to help deal with the state’s budget deficit.

According to Ted Basler, chair of the Board of Regents at Washington State University, the state is tied for the third most severe higher-education cuts in the nation.

“We’re in a world of hurt,” said Sid Morrison, chair of the Board of Trustees at Central Washington University. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot -- shooting our future. We’re interrupting the American dream.”

Baseler said WSU has increased tuition by 70 percent over the past four years to help backfill state cuts.

“All of us are unwilling to compromise quality,” said Dennis Madsen, a member of Western Washington University board of trustees. “That’s why tuition is rising.”

Last session lawmakers passed a bill that allowed schools to set their own tuition rates.

Tuition at Western went up by 16 percent for the 2011-12 school year and is expected to increase by another 16 percent in the next school year.

Some trustees and regents said raising tuition is the only way higher-education institutions can provide quality education, in light of the budget cuts.

“We have the opportunity in the state of Washington to give [students] skills to develop economically and socially,” said Mark Mays, a Board of Trustees member at Eastern Washington University.

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