The Cost-of-Education Increase
As the annual rise in tuition and fees at colleges and universities continues, trustees and administrators at public institutions blame inadequate state funding
WASHINGTON — Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) student Lindsay Proffitt headed home this summer with bad news about school. It wasn’t her grades; it was her tuition.
“I can’t believe it’s this expensive to go to college,” says Proffitt, 22, an English major with a part-time job at a local clothing store. “It’s absolutely insane.”
And her anxiety is being felt nationwide.
Pennsylvania residents attending any of the 14 state-owned universities will pay $3,618 in tuition next year — a $150 increase from this year — the system’s governing board decided last month. The State System of Higher Education says the $15 million increase is needed because of rising personnel costs and because the General Assembly did not give the schools all the money that they sought. The General Assembly gave the universities $438 million for their 1999-2000 operations, compared to $425 million this year. However, the state system had asked for $448 million for next year’s budget.
But even if lawmakers had granted the system’s full request, there still would have been a tuition increase of $100, system spokesman Kenn Marshall says.
“Cost increases were such that we always assumed a tuition increase — it was just a matter of how much,” he explains.
Administrators of the system had recommended a $190 tuition increase, but a subcommittee of the board reduced it to $150. As a result, according to System Chancellor James McCormick, the 14 universities will have to reduce spending by $5.5 million because of the smaller tuition increase.
Out-of-state students will pay between $5,428 and $9,046 depending on the campus they attend and the program in which they are enrolled. Tuition has been $3,468 for the last two academic years and it increased $100 two years ago. Each campus sets its own room and board rates.
The 14 universities that comprise the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester.
At Lincoln University, a state-affiliated but not state-controlled historically Black institution, tuition for in-state, full-time freshmen rose $178 to $3,570. When room and board and the other campus fees are added, freshmen are looking at a $668 increase, bringing the total to $10,638. For out-of-state students, tuition rose $436 to $6,256. When room, board, and fees are added, the cost for out-of-staters rose $945 to $12,585.
The University of Pittsburgh will also raise tuition — by 4 percent — at its five campuses for the 1999-2000 school year. Full-time undergraduates from Pennsylvania would see tuition rise $234 to $6,118, pending approval of the budget. Non-Pennsylvanians would see tuition go up $516 to $13,434.
In Virginia, public colleges and universities were expecting to offer their students a 20 percent decrease in their tuition rates this fall. However, that rollback has been offset with increases in fees and room and board costs, according to a State Council of Higher Education report released last month.
The average cost of going to a four-year public college will drop by 4.3 percent, to $8,571 counting room and board, for undergraduate students from Virginia, the report says.
“It is absolutely contradictory to what the governor was trying to do with the rollback,” Lila Young, a spokesperson for Gov. Jim Gilmore, said. “His purpose all along was to provide a real savings. It’s a shame that that has not turned out to be the case.”
But putting the tuition decrease and fee increase in a historical context, council Director William Allen says, “This is a dramatic decline from the mid-1990s. Having a lower price tag makes us more competitive.”
In Ohio, officials at Ohio State University have been quietly lobbying state lawmakers to remove tuition caps for all of the state’s public universities for years. They are hoping this will be the year.
The Ohio Senate decided to keep the tuition cap in its version of the state’s budget bill, but the House of Representatives has eliminated the cap in its version. A conference committee will decide the issue.
Ohio State’s president, Dr. William E. Kirwan, wants lawmakers to side with the House and lift the cap that holds Ohio’s 13 public universities to tuition raises of no more than 6 percent per year for in-state undergraduates.
“We’re hoping the conference committee will take the caps off, then watch us and see if we act responsibly,” Kirwan told The Columbus Dispatch. “If we don’t, then they can put the cap back on.
“Not that we would ratchet up tuition significantly above 6 percent. But we do think we ought to have some flexibility in determining our tuition.”
Ohio State, one of the nation’s largest universities with an enrollment of about 48,300, has tightened admissions standards over the last decade. And for the fourth time in five years, the school plans to increase tuition to the maximum 6 percent.
Miami University in Oxford is the state’s most expensive public university with an annual tuition for in-state undergraduates of $5,802, followed by the University of Cincinnati at $4,746. Ohio State comes in at No. 9 among state schools with a tuition bill of $3,879.
As for Profitt’s situation, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Charles E. Smith says his board is considering an increase of up to 8 percent for MTSU. The University of Memphis is considering a 12 percent hike.
“Most of the students [at MTSU] have to work,” says MTSU graduate Jenita Welch, a 28-year-old taking summer courses there. “When you are worried about paying your bills, [a tuition increase] makes it hard.”
At historically Black Tennessee State University, which also falls under the control of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the increase will be 5 percent. Starting in the fall, full-time, in-state students at TSU will pay $1,211 per semester and full-time, out-of-state students will pay $3,745 per semester.
In the state’s other large university system, the UT Board of Trustees last month approved a 15 percent fee hike for instate undergraduates at the flagship Knoxville campus and 9 percent increases at UT-Chattanooga and UT-Martin.
The tuition hikes come as the university tries to bolster the Knoxville campus as a premier research institution despite a seven-year drought in new funding from the state.
The action came with a warning from retiring UT president Joe Johnson: “The University of Tennessee is at a point of crisis. The cumulative effect of years of inadequate support from the state of Tennessee endangers the future of UT and all of Tennessee higher education.”
The vote came without discussion and only one trustee, Amon Carter Evans of Columbia, voted against the increases. But Evans suggested, after the tuition committee voted on the matter, that trustees instead should consider capping enrollment to get legislators attention because sharp tuition increases haven’t done it.
The increases, the biggest one-year leap since 1986, will mean $340 more a year for UT-Knoxville undergraduates and $180 more for students at UT-Martin and UT-Chattanooga.
The trustee committees also approved new admissions standards for UT-Knoxville that would end a 15-year-old policy of automatic entry if a student achieves certain grade averages in high school and college entrance scores. For instance, any instate student with an 18 on their ACT or 860 on their SAT and at least a 2.75 GPA can get into UT-Knoxville.
University officials want to become a “little bit more selective,” says Senior Vice President Homer Fisher of the new standards that are set to begin in fall 2001.
Under the new standards, admission wouldn’t be based just on college boards and grade averages, but also a writing sample and an evaluation of the difficulty of a student’s high school course load, particularly if classes were honors or advanced placement.
UT officials say the proposed fee increases, which have averaged around 6 percent annually for the past decade, are the result of the state’s failure to put more dollars into higher education.
“If we had the state funding we wouldn’t have to do it,” UT Trustee Vice Chairman Bill Sansom says.
Zeal of Approval
In New Jersey, the Rutgers University Board of Governors approved a tuition increase of 4.4 percent for undergraduate students. The increase, effective for the fall term, sends tuition for state residents up $200 a year, to $4,762. Out-of-state undergraduates will spend $406 more, with annual tuition rising to $9,692.
The tuition increase is considerably lower than it has been in recent years because of an increase in state aid, school officials say. The board approved a 7 percent increase last year and a 5.8 percent increase the year before.
Room and board will rise 3.9 percent and 2 percent, respectively, for a total cost of $6,098 — bringing the combined cost for state residents up to $10,860.
In South Carolina, Winthrop University will increase tuition and fees, including room and board, for undergraduates by 2.7 percent, the school’s board announced last month.
Fees for full-time undergraduates will increase to $2,063 from $2,016 for in-state students and to $3,717 from $3,625 for out-of-state students. Room and board will increase to $2,011 from $1,952 for all students.
School officials estimate the increases will generate more than $600,000, much of which will pay for a state-mandated 4 percent salary increase for faculty and staff.
On the West Coast, tuition for in-state students at Washington State University will increase 4 percent next school year, the regents have decided. Using their new authority to set tuition for the first time, the regents also decided to raise undergraduate tuition 3.6 percent the following year.
In-state graduate and professional program students will see 3 percent tuition increases in each of the next two years, the regents say.
Students from out-of-state who are undergraduates will not have their tuition increased in the next two years. Washington State has suffered a drop in the number of these students, who pay 130 percent of the cost of instruction. Graduate and professional students from out-of-state will have no increase the first year and a 3.6 percent tuition increase the second year, the regents decided.
—Compiled from Associated Press stories by Eric St. John
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com