During the first day of the Special Session, the Senate took up Senate Bill 5954, a bill aimed at reducing tuition at four-year universities across the state. Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, issued the following statement after voting in favor of the bill:

“I voted in favor of this measure today because I believe that we need to make higher education more accessible to all. This bill is a start, especially for our four year university students, but it does not evenly reduce tuition for all our students – it excludes thousands of students enrolled in our community and technical colleges.

“This bill reduces tuition for our four year state universities by nearly 30 percent. At the same time, our community and technical colleges have to wait a school year to receive a 1.8 percent reduction in tuition. I have a wonderful community college in the heart of my district and am a proud graduate of that college. The students there should have the same opportunities as students of four year universities.

“In addition to my concern that this bill does not evenly lower tuition, I am concerned about how we will fund this measure in the budget. We have now concluded our first day of the Special Session and the fate of a final budget is still uncertain. We have many demands on our budget this year and while this is a start to lowering tuition, we must fund the bill in order to have it work. We cannot place another unfunded mandate on our students.

“As a mom of a daughter who is in college, I understand the need to reduce tuition and make it more affordable without saddling another generation of students with debt. I believe that access to quality education is one of the pillars of building a healthy community. We need to make sure that we are lowering tuition for all students, not just a few.”