Washington is losing the American dream that its citizens, regardless of their financial level, can go to college. I was raised in a single-parent family on welfare, yet I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. I have attended, worked for, administered or built universities for more than 50 years. The hardworking, average family no longer has access to or can afford to attend our best public colleges. Today in Washington, the traditional on-campus experience is increasingly enjoyed primarily by children of the wealthy or the very poor who are very bright. In this era of decreasing state support for public universities, the cost of tuition and attendance simply exceeds the capacity of the average, hardworking family. If the family is well below the median income, they might get financial aid and grants, but the family around the median will have to obtain loans. At first blush, the cost of tuition at a public research university looks expensive, but not too bad. However, one needs to look at the estimated cost of attendance, which includes living expenses, fees and books. With these included, the cost for one year jumps to between $18,000 to $25,000 per year. As most students attend university for more than four years, the real cost, not counting inflation, is often well more than $100,000. I am basing these estimates on the data included in our public universities websites and my 25 years of higher education experience in Washington. I am also the treasurer of the College Success Foundation. The Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board reports that based on the number of degrees per 100 residents, our children are not as well-educated as their parents. Even with the large number of educated individuals we import from other states, if one takes the percentage of our population between the ages of 17 and 64 and compares us with other states, we rank 48th in undergraduate enrolment and 49th in graduate enrolment. We are certainly losing business to other states and need to realise that they probably have better educated work forces. If our public universities do not get increased support from the state of Washington, they will decrease in quality and need to become increasingly private. Even though, according to the Washington Council of Presidents, our public universities are among the most efficient in the nation in producing degrees per state dollars invested, their enrolments are limited by state funding. They could enrol and educate more students, but they would not receive more state funds. We need a greater public awareness that our decreasing state funding is hurting our citizens abilities to get a college education. With our states policy of high tuition and high financial aid, we are increasingly seeing the children of the wealthy go to college while the children of the hardworking, average family do not. I think it is time for Washington to return to the concept that all individuals, regardless of their incomes, should have the opportunity to have access to an affordable, high-quality education. As a state, we have relied on being able to import a contingent of educated workers second only to those imported to California. We need help from our elected officials, so that our youth can get a good college education. That they can help build our future and not just wash the cars of those who do. Seattle Times