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Washington State schools suffering big from economy

As recently as this past summer, the University of Washington was celebrating the closing of a major fundraising campaign that would allow it to double enrollment on the branch campuses, the Seattle Times reported.

As a result of the economy, the school has suffered a major hit within the last two weeks and is hurting.

UW and other education institutions are brainstorming how to plug a yawning budget gap. Officials at several higher-education schools are talking about raising tuition by 10 to 15 percent next year — possibly $1,000 per student.

This would force lawmakers to raise the current limit on schools of 7 percent in tuition increases annually.

Another option the UW is considering is differential tuitions, in which juniors and seniors would pay more for school than the underclassmen. At Western Washington University, budget experts are in the process of calculating how much they could save by having some full-time staff work 80 percent instead.

This would increase class sizes, as well as the amount of teaching assistants rather than faculty members leading the courses.

"In the end, 20 percent is far too big of a number to comprehend for higher education without having the state abandon its mission," said Paul Jenny, the UW's vice provost for planning and budgeting.

This year's spending was supposed to be locked, but colleges are going back and lowering the amount for spending.

"The budget situation is extraordinarily serious," wrote WWU President Bruce Shepard to faculty and students Wednesday.

For several schools in Washington state, the cuts portray the last piece in the puzzle of declining income and increased demand. UW's endowment decreased by 14 percent in the year ending September, to $1.9 billion. UW spends around $95 million of that money annually on professorships, scholarships and other programs.