SEATTLE — A University of Washington student-led group says if the state doesn't give the school money to give their teachers a raise after four years of frozen salaries, they're willing to pay higher tuition to cover the cost.
The Provost's Advisory Committee for Students presented their idea to the UW Board of Regents on Thursday.
"It's our sense, at this university, that if this wage freeze doesn't end this year, it will have serious implications," said Michael Kutz, a junior majoring in computer science and economics who chairs the advisory committee.
This is the second year that students have been involved in budget discussions, and the first time they have presented a budget proposal to the regents.
Students on the advisory committee, along with student-government leaders, said if lawmakers won't give more state dollars to higher education, students would support a 3 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates -- or about $322 -- in 2013-14, and another 3 percent increase the next year. Total tuition and fees are currently about $12,400.
A tuition increase of 3 percent could pay for a 2 percent raise for faculty and staff in the next school year and a second 2 percent the following year.
Administrators affirmed the importance of the faculty salary issue.
"Our No. 1 concern is compensation. After four years, we really are at the risk of losing some talented people," said UW budget director Paul Jenny.
History professor Jim Gregory, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said professors at the UW are paid 11 to 16 percent less than faculty members at comparable universities.
Although a 2 percent wage increase won't erase the difference, he called it "a wonderful gesture, and a gift to the faculty."
Ultimately, whether tuition rises or falls is up to the Legislature, which will hold a special session later this month to finish writing the budget.
Among the proposals are a plan to cut tuition by 3 percent next year, another to freeze tuition and a proposal to increase it by 5 percent.
The fact that students support a tuition increase if the state won't put more money into higher education could help in legislative budget deliberations, said Randy Hodgins, vice president of the UW Office of External Affairs.
"It's not just the administration, but our students here see a need for it, too," he said regarding more higher education funding.
Students said the proposal to increase tuition has been controversial, and not everyone agrees it's a good idea.
Still, "we're empathetic" about the wage-freeze issue for faculty members, said Adam Sherman, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. "We don't want to lose them."