Because our state's tax system is broken (like, really broken) and can't support students like it used to:

As recently as 10 years ago, an undergraduate resident at the University of Washington paid about $5,000 in tuition annually — the state picked up more than half the cost. Even with living expenses factored in, it would have been possible for a student working full time during the summer and part time during the school year to at least pay a good chunk of the cost through earnings.

College was an even better deal for students who graduated in the 1980s and 1990s, when the state paid 70 to 80 percent of the cost. (Of course, the minimum wage was lower, too.) If the state still picked up 80 percent of the tab, a year of undergraduate tuition at the UW would be less than $5,000.

But, it doesn't. This is the same state, remember, that is in trouble with its own supreme court for woefully underfunding basic education.