Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This year my caucus named me as the ranking Republican on the House Higher Education Committee. In that role I lead our six-member Republican team in working with the committee's seven Democrats to deliberate on policies impacting our public colleges and universities. Higher education has historically been an area of great bipartisan collaboration, and we are off to a good start in working together for the good of Washington's students and tuition-paying families. The agenda I have laid out for my caucus consists of six major ideas:
1. Freeze tuition while increasing the state's funding commitment to higher education;
2. Boost funding to the State Need Grant financial aid program;
3. Promote innovation;
4. Control costs;
5. Encourage choice; and
6. Make Washington's colleges and universities the most veteran-friendly in America.
Until recently, the Legislature made continued deep cuts to higher education. In 2009, the state budget cut $500 million from higher education, and in 2011, it cut $600 million. Then in 2013, following the lead of Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Andy Hill, the Legislature increased funding to our colleges and universities by 12 percent while freezing tuition for the first time since 1986–without raising taxes. I believe that we can continue this kind of support in the 2015 budget.
As we do this, it is right for us to expect certain results from our state institutions. We need to push for innovative solutions to our state's shortage of computer science, engineering, and medical graduates. We need higher education budget transparency–better information about how universities and their departments are spending taxpayer and tuition dollars. We need to drive down the cost of textbooks, expand the use of lower-cost online textbooks and open course materials, and cap salary bonuses paid to university presidents. We need policies that maximize the choices available to students so that they can pursue a degree or certification in a community college, a public university, an independent private college, a proprietary career college, an online program, or a job certification program. And we need to reward those who have served our country in the Armed Forces by ensuring that higher education opportunities are widely available to our veterans.
This week, my seatmate Rep. Melanie Stambaugh and I introduced bills to address the high cost of textbooks. You can read our joint press release HERE. My bill would cap the cost of a textbook at $100 unless there is no suitable alternative. Rep. Stambaugh's bill would launch an online open education pilot project at Eastern Washington University. This is an innovative and practical solution to an issue that a number of students have brought to the Legislature, and it's an example of the good work newly-elected Rep. Stambaugh is already doing in Olympia.
I would value your input on our higher education agenda. As we work to promote the best interests of Washington's students and families, we need as many good ideas as possible. Feel free to send your ideas any time.
Keep in touch.
468 John L.O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7968 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000