Passage of I-601 could put students over a barrel

A magazine cover shows a student—wearing nothing but a barrel—looking forlornly into your eyes, while the headline screams “The High Cost of Higher Ed.” Another magazine has the cover title “What Will Be Left?” A third wraps a pitch for reader contributions across its front page.

While these are examples from past issues of California and Oregon college magazines, they might also be headlines from future issues of Columns. Just as our sister West Coast states have seen their higher education systems suffer under tax-limit initiatives, it may be Washington state’s turn with the passage of Initiative 601.

I-601 limits the growth of state spending to the three-year average of growth in population and inflation. To exceed that limit, two-thirds of the legislature must approve new taxes and then voters must ratify the measure in a general election.

Since this issue was prepared in September and October, we spare you the doom and gloom found in other West Coast alumni magazines. Instead we offer you uplifting articles on human volunteers in research, on finding a common language in the battle of the sexes, and on one woman’s encounter with cancer. There is even a positive note to the Pac- 10 sanctions imposed on the UW football program.

But as the effects of I-601 become more apparent, Columns may resemble those other West Coast alumni magazines. At Cal-Berkeley in-state tuition has more than doubled from $1,571 in 1989 to $4,334 this fall. The University of Oregon cut almost 2,000 students; those remaining have lost 24 degree programs. What is coming at the UW depends on the legislature. But don’t be surprised if you find a student wearing nothing but a barrel on some future cover.