U. of Washington Students Say They Can Work to Help Pay Tuition

In recent years, a few student groups have come up with ideas to pay their tuition and fees with a portion of their income earned after graduating. For example, the UC Student Investment Proposal has been proposed by students at the University of California at Riverside, and the Pay It Forward concept developed in a class at Portland State University.

Now, students at the University of Washington have come up with their own version—one that relies more on students’ earnings during college, rather than after they graduate.

The proposal, called Meet Us in the Middle, isn’t advocating for students to pay a larger share of their costs through their own earnings. The students are asking that the maximum “expected student contribution” (their costs after family contribution, grants, and scholarships) be set at $11,556 per year.

That figure is an estimate of how much a student would earn if he or she worked 20 hours per week during the academic year and full time during the summer, with a wage of $9.32 per hour, Washington State’s minimum wage.

Students often hear from older policy makers how they worked their way through college, says Michael J. Kutz, a senior studying computer science and president of the Associated Students of the University of Washington. But for many students, working covers too little of their enormous college costs.

One key to the students’ proposal is that the university should redistribute its financial aid to help students from middle-income families who get little or no money from the university. Students from families who earn about $80,000 per year, for example, do not receive any institutional aid and are expected to cover more of their costs than they can reasonably earn during a year, the proposal concludes.

Kay Lewis, executive director of financial aid and scholarships at the university, says she admires the students for their efforts. But their proposal would also cost the university, requiring it to spend much more than the $94-million it now dedicates to financial aid.

Mr. Kutz says a number of small things would help the university provide more financial aid, like requiring the athletics department to pay nearly $4-million in scholarships for female athletes from its own budget, rather than covering that amount from student tuition.

Both agree, however, that the state should put more money into its grant program. The students recommend an additional $20-million.

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