House passes Pollet bill to improve affordability of graduate degrees for public service careers such as public health and nursing

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rep. Gerry Pollet D-46
Lake Forest Park
A bill sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Gerry Pollet is aimed at restoring access to Washington students seeking to pursue public service careers following cost increases of $8,000 to $15,000
The State House or Representatives passed the Pollet-sponsored Substitute House Bill 1669 Monday to increase affordable access to graduate degrees required for such public service careers as nursing, public health and school librarianship.
“We must restore affordable access and the opportunity for Washington residents to serve the public in fields such as public health and nursing,” said Pollet, who represents Lake Forest Park, northeast Seattle and the rest of the 46th District.
The legislation is in response to the University of Washington’s decisions to remove graduate programs in nursing, public health, and library science from all state support and the resulting tuition hikes of 50 to 100 percent on students, with little advance notification.
The graduate degrees required for entry-level jobs in these and similar public service careers have increased in cost by $8,000 to $15,000 in recent years – often without notice to the graduate students who had been accepted into the programs. Faced with dramatically reduced state support, the University of Washington and other public universities have shifted students from programs supported by a combination of tuition and state support into entirely self-supporting “fee based” programs.
SHB 1669 requires that a University, when considering moving a degree program to “fee based” without state funding, must:

  • Notify current and prospective students;
  • Maintain state-supported tuition rates for existing students;
  • Maintain support for students when the students will lose eligibility for financial aid programs if the program becomes a “fee” based program; and
  • Establish criteria for which degree programs should be fee-based, with input from students and faculty, which may include if the program trains students for required degrees in public service careers and the salaries for such public service or health careers.

UW student Michelle Dillon said, “Students should not find out after they are accepted to a program that their tuition is 50 percent higher than they expected. This bill will prevent that from happening to future students.”

Melanie Mayock, vice president of the University of Washington Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said, “Rep. Pollet’s legislation provides much-needed safeguards for students when a University changes a degree program to “fee based” and removes state funding. 
“Students pursuing public-interest careers such as public health or nursing should not be cut off of state funding without a transparent process, which this legislation requires,” Mayock said.

The UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Washington State Public Health Association has supported Pollet’s bill. 
Pollet said, “Graduate students and I appreciate that the University of Washington recognized that students admitted into some programs were not given adequate notice before the program’s costs increased dramatically and that a review of the move to fee based programs was appropriate,” adding, “We recognize that the UW has taken steps to embark on this review in collaboration with graduate students and faculty.”  
“We need to ensure that we do not put the price of a degree out of reach for Washington students from all backgrounds who want to devote themselves to public health.”
The bill passed the House 84-14, and goes to the Senate with a companion bill.
A press release from Pollet listed these examples of the dramatic cost increases for students to obtain public service career degrees when the degree programs at the UW were shifted to fee based:

-----$14,000 in 2008
-----$28,000 in 2009 (approx.)

Community Oriented Public Health Practice:
-----$12,940 in 2010
-----$20,328 in 2012

Master of Library and Information Science:
-----$12,350 in 2010
-----$21,450 in 2011

Seattle Times article about UW’s fee-based programs 


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