Gov. Chris Gregoire's task force on higher education showed some pragmatism in a report issued today that calls for expanded enrollments and private money to provide financial aid to students.
It's hard to imagine any alternatives in a budget cycle that calls for reduced spending on higher education. The task force recommendations, laid out here, would let universities set their own tuition rates with some guidelines tied to peer institutions' rates – but with far more flexibility than is now allowed by state lawmakers.
It also calls for a $1 billion endowment – with tax credits for businesses that donate – to help pay for tuition for students from low-income and middle-income families. And it calls for expanded enrollments including a 40 percent boost in diplomas in the trendy “STEM” or science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields seen as a driver of future jobs.
The task force was led by Microsoft counsel Brad Smith and included representatives from business and higher education, including Les Purce, president of The Evergreen State College in Olympia. In a task force news release, Purce is quoted as saying:
Gov. Chris Gregoire created the task force in June and welcomed the suggestions.