Many of you have received President Shepard's e-mails about the impending budget cuts and have heard the rumors of tuition raises. Due to the current economic situation, higher education across the board is going to receive less and less support from the state. The administration of Western Washington University and other administrations of public universities across the state are responding to this situation in a way that not only endangers access to higher education, but student involvement and indeed any checks and balances on tuition.

The Associated Students supports our university unconditionally in fighting the budget cuts that will inevitably cut programs and jeopardize academic quality. The Associated Students, however, cannot support the university administration in advocating for removing the 7 percent cap on tuition and asking the legislature for full tuition setting authority.

The law (RCW28B.15.068) currently states “Beginning with the 2007-08 academic year and ending with the 2016-17 academic years, tuition fees charged to full-time resident undergraduate students may increase no greater than 7 percent over the previous academic year in any institution of higher education.” This cap on tuition was set in place in 2006 as a compromise between the students, the legislature and the office of the governor as an agreement that tuition should stay predictable and low. However, due to the economic situation, the administration has abandoned that agreement and has decided to push for a “high tuition, high financial aid” model. The administration's current direction is to raise tuition enough to supply the amount of money needed to make up for lack of funding from the state Students simply cannot afford to do this, and at a public university nor should we be asked to. As students, we are at risk of being used to balance the university's budget.

What is tuition now? What would 7 percent raise look like?

What are the Associated Students doing about this? What can I do about this?
The Associated Students will always stand by the belief that “the best form of financial aid is low tuition” and will be taking the steps necessary to make sure the university continues to serve students based on merit instead of their ability to pay. To find out about how you can contribute, you can do you can do any of the following:

Contact Morgan Holmgren, the AS's legislative liaison. He is living in Olympia representing students every day to our state representatives and senators. Feel free to e-mail him with questions.

Contact me for more information about getting involved and how to contact your legislators about tuition raises. Watch for updates in the AS Review about what the Associated Students is doing on campus to address these issues not only in Olympia but here at Western as well.

Attend Legislative Affairs Council (4:30 every Tuesday in VU 464) and the Student Senate (6:30 every Tuesday in VU 567). Look for volunteers in Red Square on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with pre-formed letters to sign addressing Western student concerns about raising tuition. Sign a letter, and we'll send it to the state legislature.

Every Thursday there will be a forum from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Bond Hall 103 that goes more in depth about tuition, institutional tuition setting authority and other issues the Associated Students is dealing with on the state legislative level. At each forum we will have a letter-writing portion where you can write specifically about your ideas about tuition raises.

Watch out for future chances to go to Olympia organized by the Legislative Affairs office within the Associated Students and voice your opinion.

For information regarding dates and future events ,contact Sarah Ishmael at ASVP.Legislative@wwu.edu.

It is true that we are going though economically tough times nationally and on the state level. However, that does not mean that universities and the state legislature have to punish students even further by disenfranchising us from the education we need to be able to find jobs, contribute to the state and keep the economy going.

There are still other options that keep tuition low, predictable and affordable. The tuition cap is more than keeping tuition low and accessible to the public, it's also about the process by which students, the legislature and university administrations came together and negotiated a tuition policy with all the stakeholders present. It is easy to make permanent solutions for temporary situations, and no one expected our state's economic forecast to be so dire. However, this is not the time to cast away previous agreements for economic conveniences. If necessary, let's revisit the level of the tuition cap, but getting rid of it all together is unreasonable.

We as students are not simply products, interest groups to be taken care of. We are stakeholders, campus contributors and the ones that will be leading this state and this nation in the near future. Now is the time to honor our commitments and ride out this tough time together as a community, not as separate interest groups hurting each other in the stampede for financial relief.