Spokane Republican State Senator Michael Baumgartner has a radical plan to jump start the economy: make state high education institutions more affordable so more middle-income students can get degrees and better jobs.
Baumgartner has introduced a bill that would cap state tuition at 10 percent of the average wage in Washington, which would be about $5,000 today.
David Boze talked to Baumgartner about the proposal, saying that it would largely benefit middle class families who earn too much to qualify for financial aid, but earn too little to pay for college out of pocket.
"For the past 10 years, college [students and their family] have been the piggy bank for expansion of state government," Baumgartner said. "The middle income student is being priced out; we need to get college at a price where students can afford it."
However, Baumgartner's proposal would require injecting $200 million into state colleges to make up for lost tuition revenue. Baumgartner would also seek to redefine the meaning of "basic education" in the state constitution to include higher education.
Boze wondered how state government would deal with rising higher education costs - like a future date where university officials visit politicians in Olympia asking for more money.
"How do you prevent these colleges from continuing to grow these expenses? There would be increasing pressure each year," Boze said.
"Universities have strayed from their core function in part because of the $1 trillion in federal [student loan] debt," Baumgartner said. "The solution has to be to cap the prices to force universities to get more efficient and cap their costs.
"If we keep going down this path and force middle income students and families to pick up the bill, we're going to continue growing this $1 trillion [student loan] debt at the national level."