WSU’s government relations team spent much of this week in Pullman, keeping us away from the blog. And in that time a number of noteworthy happenings occurred.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a series of bills of great interest to higher education that were approved in the recently completed legislative session.

House Bill 1795 gives universities authority to set their own tuition for eight years while also increasing financial aid obligations. The governor vetoed a series of provisions that would have extended additional operational flexibility to state universities as it relates to procurement.

The very same day, WSU’s Board of Regents approved a 16 percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year for resident undergraduates. The increase mirrors what was authorized in the state budget recently approved by the Legislature and due to be signed by the governor next week.  The board did not exercise authority provided under House Bill 1795.

Also signed into law was House Bill 2088 creating the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a public/private partnership designed to provide near term scholarships for low and middle-income students while also establishing an endowment to provide a funding source for future scholarships.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 5182, which will eliminate the Higher Education Coordinating Board on July 1, 2012, and transfer its duties to other entities. A steering committee will recommend what duties go where. The Legislature will then have to act on those recommendations during its 2012 legislative session.