Jolt was simply blown away by Margaret Shepherd, a lobbyist for the University of Washington, who, just three hours after the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus released their proposed budget on Wednesday, testified at that afternoon's marathon public hearing in the senate Ways and Means Committee on the budget, coming out against what she called a "tax" on international students (looks like the GOP uses taxes too!) that she said would hurt the UW and make Washington less competitive than other states.
The GOP budget proposes a 20 percent surcharge on foreign students' tuition at state universities and colleges, which they say will bring in $59 million this biennium. The cash is part of the budget's plan to spend $100 million more on higher education than the previous budget's baseline, directing more than $3 billion to higher ed.
"The revenue you assume in this budget will not be there because these students will not be able to attend."—UW lobbyist on the senate budgetForeign students (and out-of-state students) currently pay about three times as much for tuition as in-state students, or about $30,000 a year. The surcharge would push it to $36,000.
Shepherd's complaint was that international students—80 percent of the state's foreign students go to UW—shouldn't have to subsidize higher education across the state. (Their higher rates already do subsidize in-state student tuition.)
Why were we so impressed with Shepherd's testimony? Well, watch her all-star performance for yourself, but her command of the facts and her studious poise under a barrage of hostile questions (her confidence seemed to goad the committee into asking her more and more questions in a losing effort to take her down) not only eviscerated the GOP proposal, but put her in a faceoff with senate majority leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina).
And, well: Tom probably wishes he didn't challenge her. Shepherd dismantled Tom's convoluted attempt to accuse international students of getting a pass because their parents don't pay federal income tax.
"The $1.2 billion in federal research grants," Shepherd said, batting back Tom's theory that foreign students are benefiting from federal dollars, "funds direct federal research. ... [But] we're talking about undergraduate international students and education. ... The reality of this [surcharge] is, this is international students paying for and not receiving any benefit off of their direct tuition, and it is at a rate that will price these students out of the market, which means the revenue you assume in this budget will not be there because these students will not be able to attend."When you raise tuition on students and use that revenue to fund something other than their education, then that fee becomes a tax because you are diverting the resource that they are paying to something from which they are not benefiting."
Currently, about 10 percent of the UW's 40,000 students are international students.
Shepherd also schooled the committee on why the Republican "surcharge" proposal is actually a tax: "When you raise tuition on students and use that revenue to fund something other than their education, then that fee becomes a tax because you are diverting the resource that they are paying to something from which they are not benefiting.
And because the majority of the international student fee is generated by University of Washington students and that goes to subsidize investments across the four-year system, the two-year system, and financial aid, we do believe that that's a tax instead of a tuition fee."
Oh, and in her spare time, Shepherd also blasted the proposal for sweeping $16.5 million out of the UW Hospital account and into the general fund. And she condemned the overall plan for lowering the dollar spent per student (not only does the GOP budget fail to account for the UW's increased enrollment, but the plan mandates a three percent tuition cut, taking $14 million away from the UW)
Watch Shepherd vs. Tom here:
Watch her entire testimony, including when she trumps Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-24, Hoquiam) (no partisan discretion in whom Shepherd schooled), here: