Since 2000, State College Tuition Up 40%
By Kavan Peterson, Staff Writer
After three years of nearly double-digit tuition hikes, students in the nation's public universities got a bit of a break this year with a 7 percent increase, the College Board reported Oct. 18.
Between 2000 and 2005, the average cost of tuition for students attending four-year public universities jumped 40 percent, according to the Board, a New York City-based nonprofit made up of 4,300 colleges and universities. Students paid an average of $5,491 for tuition and fees in 2005, up from $3,925 in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2000.
By comparison, college tuition for two-year community colleges and four-year private colleges has increased less than 19 percent in the past five years and less than 6 percent between 2004 and 2005, according to the report, Trends in College Pricing 2005 .
State college tuition and fees are lowest in Florida, averaging $3,100 at four-year public colleges, and highest in Pennsylvania, averaging $8,410. The report includes a state-by-state list of average college tuition and fees charged at two-year public colleges, four-year state colleges and private four-year colleges for both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.
The report did not analyze factors driving tuition increases, but it linked the largest average increases to reductions in state funding for higher education.
Legislatures struggling to close budget deficits since the recession of 2001 have slowed spending on higher education. Many public universities, frustrated with shrinking state support at a time that enrollment is booming, are pushing for greater fiscal autonomy in raising tuition and setting budget priorities. But education experts fear that trading state support for greater autonomy will lead to privatization of public universities.
In 2003-04, state higher-education appropriations were cut by 2.1 percent nationwide, according to a survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. That represented the first actual state higher-ed appropriations cut since 1992-93.
State appropriations for higher education in fiscal year 2004-05 rose 3.8 percent to $63 billion, the Center reported.
The College Board reported average tuition hikes of 4 percent in 2000-01, 7 percent in 2001-02, 9 percent in 2002-03, 14 percent in 2003-04, 10 percent in 2004-05, and 7 percent this school year.
Student aid has been on the rise, but not by enough to keep students from relying more heavily on borrowing, according to a companion report, Trends in Student Aid 2005 .
Average student aid, including grants and loans, increased $10 billion in the 2004-05 academic year to almost $129 billion. But adjusted for inflation, the average aid per student increased only 3 percent. The proportion of aid students received in grants has declined each year since 2001, the report found.
"Financial aid dollars have not been keeping up with tuition, and there's getting to be a larger gap in what students and their parents have to come up with on their own to pay for college," said Melanie Amrhein, the president of the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.
The board also reported that changes in federal student aid policy in recent years have benefited families in the upper half of income ranges more than lower-income families. Forty-three percent of the education tax credits and about 70 percent of the benefits of the federal tuition tax deduction go to taxpayers with incomes of $50,000 or higher.
College Board president Gaston Caperton, a former governor of West Virginia, said in a prepared statement that colleges and universities need to focus on finding ways to make college more accessible and affordable to the nation's growing population of students from low-income families.
The College Board also released the report, Education Pays 2005, which found that 66 percent of white high school graduates enroll in college within a year, compared to 57 percent of black and 52 percent of Hispanic high school graduates.
Adults with a bachelor's degree working a typical year-round job get paid on average 60 percent more than adults with only a high school diploma, the report found. College graduates also lead healthier lifestyles and are at lower risk of obesity and heart disease, according to the report.