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Report: College Affordability in Jeopardy

Report: College Affordability in Jeopardy

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Public higher education tuition has soared in the past year as state spending for colleges and universities has dropped sharply, according to a new report on college affordability released last month.

“The states are responding to the budget crisis by passing major cuts on to colleges and universities — and colleges and universities are responding to these reductions by passing on the cost to students and families,” says Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “This is all happening at a time when student financial aid is not keeping pace with increases in tuition.”

“The result was the worst fiscal news for public higher education institutions and their students in at least a decade, as the economic recession struck almost every state,” the report notes.

Released by the National Center, “College Affordability in Jeopardy,” highlights the nation’s public two- and four-year colleges and universities, which enroll about 80 percent of America’s college students. This report is the first to look at what has happened state-by-state to public tuition and fees, state appropriations for higher education, state student financial aid, and personal income for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 (as of December 2002).

The report shows that public colleges continue to become less affordable for students and families. At public four-year colleges and universities, 16 states have increased tuition and fees by more than 10 percent. Massachusetts led with the largest increase, at 24 percent, followed by Missouri, Iowa and Texas at 20 percent and North Carolina at 19 percent.

At public two-year colleges, 10 states have increased tuition and fees by more than 10 percent. South Carolina and Massachusetts led with the largest increase, at 26 percent, followed by New Hampshire and Arkansas at 17 percent, and then Washington and Indiana at 14 percent.

Despite the increases in tuition at public colleges and universities, some states have invested little in student financial aid. Only 14 states have increased their spending in student grant aid by more than 10 percent, while 17 states have decreased their total investment. South Carolina had the largest increase in investment in student financial aid (94 percent), while Massachusetts had the largest decrease (24 percent).

States that increased tuition were not necessarily the same states that offset those increases with additional investment in student financial aid. For example, public four-year college tuition increased in Massachusetts by 24 percent, while the state decreased student financial aid by 24 percent. In Illinois, public four-year college tuition increased by 9 percent, while the state cut student financial aid by 10 percent. Furthermore, in the past year, state support for higher education has declined in 14 states.

“The cumulative effect is a major assault on college affordability,” Callan says. “This comes at a time when unemployment is high, personal income is basically flat, and college-level education and training is a requirement for most well-paying jobs.”

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