Washington Students Appeal For More Aid, Lower Tuition

If you are not a current college student, or the parent of one, you may not have noticed that during the recession, many colleges and universities had their state funding cut by up to 50% .

A group of University of Washington (UW) students would like to go back to the days when a student could actually afford to work his way through college, according to Katherine Long, writing for the Seattle Times.  In fact, they feel so strongly about this issue, they have taken their grievance to the state legislature, asking for more financial aid and lowered tuition.

The Associated Press  reported that the program was explained in a report entitled “Meet Us in the Middle: Affordability for the Working Student”.

“What we feel has been under recognized is the amount a student directly contributes to their [sic] education,” said Michael Kutz, president of student government at the UW.

The students who work to pay tuition, often with little or no help from their parents, are finding it difficult to do so because the cost of higher education has become formidable.  Low-income students rarely get enough aid to pay the bills, and middle-income students often barely meet the cut-off, but have parents who are unable to help with tuition costs.  If a family is making $80,000 or above annually, most do not qualify for aid.

Economists are thinking that with about $1 trillion in student loan debt as yet unpaid, the debt may be affecting the housing market, among other financial arenas. The tuition for a year at UW, including living expenses, is about $27,000.

Rick Rieder, reporting for the Institutional Investor, reports that a student who worked 40 hours a week in the summer and 20 hours a week during school, at minimum Washington state wage, would make about $11,500.  Although the state’s minimum wage is about to increase to $15, many Washington college and university students do not live in-state, and could earn less in the summer because of their state’s minimum wage, which is a time when they can earn an substantial part of their college money.

Rep Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), who heads the House Education Committee, thinks the legislature should shoulder the full funding of the state financial aid program and look for more ways to find funding for higher education.

“We’re not talking about a little bit of a inconvenience,” says Dan Hurley, a policy expert with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “We’re talking about [debt] that can absolutely, fundamentally alter a life’s trajectory.”

Mandi Woodruff, writes for Yahoo Finance that Randy Olsen, a 28 year-old from Florida, was expected by his parents to work his way through school.  His minimum wage job at Walmart, and his side jobs as a computer programmer whittled away at his loans, but not enough.  He failed or dropped out of several courses because he didn’t have time to study.  He also never felt that he actually lived the “college experience” because of his work schedule.

Some students are giving up on the idea of college altogether.  In fact, a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse showed that college enrollment has fallen from 20.2 million in 2012 to 18.9 million in 2014.

Some examples of the tuition problem are:

Lucy Parks, 18, who had to drop out of her dream school, New York University (NYU) in spite of the $60,000 her parents had saved (even though the average American family’s wage has not risen significantly since 1978)  and $30,000 in scholarships.  A full-time student at NYU pays $60,000 a year.

Most college graduates have approximately $25,000 debt, which can cripple a young adult who is part of the 40% who are underemployed.