With higher education costs rising, and a skills gap in Washington state for available jobs, Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, introduced legislation to help preserve some funding for higher education that would help families struggling to pay for college.
House Bill 1811 would restrict the bonuses state university presidents receive on top of their salaries. Currently, presidents of the four largest universities in the state will receive bonuses for staying with the university for a contracted time period, typically three to six years. A story in The Seattle Times in Oct. 2011 reported bonuses alone for presidents at Central Washington University, Western Washington University, Washington State University and University of Washington add up to more than $2 million. At the same time, students saw tuition increase 14-20 percent.
The proposal by Holy would restrict bonuses to 20 percent of the president’s base salary, and would not allow them to be awarded more than once in a four-year period. If it had been law in 2011, the four universities could have saved $1.7 million.
“Think of how many more students could have been accepted to these universities, or received scholarships, if we restricted these bonuses,” said Holy, a father of one college student and one recent college graduate. “I understand that we need to attract and retain the best administrators to manage our state universities, and part of that is paying them well. We do that with their six-figure salaries. However, the bonuses have gotten out of hand. I was pleased to see WSU president Elson Floyd return some of his salary due to the economic realities at the time – he sets the standard for other university presidents. In the end, this is about the students and providing more people with access to higher education and the ability to move up in life and fulfill their dreams.”
House Bill 1810 would set aside the first one-tenth of one cent on the dollar of the state portion of the sales tax for higher education.
“Middle-class families in particular have struggled to pay the bills as tuition increased as well as the cost of books and living expenses,” said Holy. “I’m grateful the Senate Majority Coalition led the charge in holding the line on no tuition increases in our last budget, and I’m hopeful the Legislature will continue the freeze on tuition this year. In the meantime, I want to ensure higher education remains attainable for every family in Washington. Having a dedicated funding source for higher education would keep it affordable for more families and speak volumes to businesses looking for an educated workforce.”
Both measures have Democratic co-sponsors and wait to be scheduled for public hearings in the House. The 2015 legislative session began Jan. 12 and is scheduled to last 105 days.