Increasing fees for international students will hurt UW

Here’s a wild and crazy thought: Before Senate Republicans baked potentially damaging ideas into the state’s higher education budget, maybe they should have talked to the people managing our universities and colleges.

The Senate budget proposal released last week included a 20 percent surcharge on the tuition paid by international students. The Republican-controlled Senate said it would raise $60 million in new revenue over two years.

But how do they know? They apparently didn’t ask anybody over at the University of Washington, where most of the state’s international students enroll.

UW officials immediately reacted, saying the increase would make the university noncompetitive and drive students from Pacific Rim nations to other states. That would result in a loss of revenue, not an increase.

It would do even more harm to the state’s educational reputation abroad. It would also further reduce the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math programs, the one area where Washington is growing jobs at twice the national rate, but whose higher education institutions produce almost the fewest of any other state.

But that’s not the point.

Why didn’t the Republican budget writers bother to discuss the idea with the presidents of our state’s colleges and universities?

If anyone in the Republican’s Higher Education Committee had been paying attention, they would have known from the UW’s testimony on an earlier bill to surcharge international tuition – that measure was proposed to pay down GET liability, but died in committee – that the university was opposed to the idea for multiple reasons.

So maybe the Senate majority did know the dangers and went ahead anyway, against expert advice. This seems like a reckless approach to funding higher education, with the added risk of slowing high-tech job growth in this state.