House OKs bill to repeal variable tuition measure approved in 2011

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OLYMPIA — State House lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that would take away the ability of colleges and universities to set different undergraduate tuition rates for different majors.

The measure, which passed Friday 90-2, would repeal 2011 legislation allowing differential tuition.

House Bill 1043 was designed to keep the state's prepaid tuition program fiscally healthy. Officials have said differential tuition could create a challenge for the Guaranteed Education Tuition program, in keeping its prices in line with future education costs.

None of the state's colleges and universities has charged different tuition for different undergraduate majors.

Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who sponsored House Bill 1043, said if put into practice, the 2011 provision could also negatively affect students.

"The usual thing we say is that it costs more to train a computer engineer than it does a person to study English," he said.

But, he said, the 2011 bill could restrict the ability of students to choose where to go to school or which major to choose based on costs.

The 2011 bill's sponsor, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said previously that the measure had been an experiment and that he supported its repeal.

The House passed House Bill 1043 last year, but it died in the Senate.

"We've told higher ed institutions in the budget for the last several budgets that they can't do differential tuition," Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said after the vote. "We shouldn't be doing policy over and over again in the budget process. Putting it in statute is the right way to go."