States Budget Crunch Forcing Mid-Year Tuition Hikes


State budget crunches are forcing public universities across the country to take the rare step of hiking tuition midway through their academic years.

On Thursday (Jan. 23), the University System of Maryland Board of Regents voted to impose increases for the spring semester of up to 5 percent at nine of the university's 11degree-granting institutions.

Mid-year tuition increases are unusual, said Sally Martin O'Briant, spokeswoman for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), which represents 215 public universities, land-grant institutions and public university systems.

In an informal survey of its members, NASULGC found mid-year tuition hikes that ranged from 4.6 percent at the University of Connecticut to 13 percent at Virginia Tech. The surveys were sent out at the end of 2002 and the results are as of Jan. 22.

Typically, higher education institutions set tuition rates in late spring or summer for the upcoming academic year. In 2002-2003, college tuition and fees increased an average of 5.8 percent at four-year private institutions, 9.6 percent at four-year public institutions and 7.9 percent at two-year public institutions, according to a report last fall from the College Board, an association made up more than 4,200 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations.

But as states cut higher education budgets, universities are forced to raise tuition. These latest hikes are on top of tuition increases that many universities imposed in the fall. Higher education is facing a bleak financial future. It is the third largest state expenditure, behind K-12 public schooling and Medicaid. But it is feeling the squeeze of soaring health care costs and new K-12 costs associated with new federal education legislation, the so-called No Child Left Behind law.

Here is what NASULGC found from its informal survey:

In Oregon, many college students will see higher tuition bills, but just how high depends on the outcome of a ballot measure that voters will consider Jan. 28. Oregon voters will decide whether they wish to raise income taxes for a three-year period to help offset the state's budget shortfall. If Ballot Measure 28 fails, Oregon State University will impose a 13 percent increase for winter and spring terms over the existing rates and a 3 percent increase if the measure passes.

The University of Oregon will see a 13 percent increase, or an additional $10 per credit hour, for an average $130-$140 per term, if the measure does not pass. And Portland State University will increase tuition 12 percent, or $10 per credit hour for resident undergraduates, and up to $120 for full-time undergraduates. The university will rescind this surcharge if the measure passes.

NASULGC stressed that its informal survey is not the last word on mid-year hikes. Several institutions may still be considering them, but have not yet announced them, NASULGC said.


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