Families Bearing Greater Burden of Higher Education Costs


While public universities and colleges look to state funding to stay in operation, the burden is increasingly falling on families who are trying to keep up with tuition costs continually on the rise.

Despite an increase in state spending on higher education in 2014, tuition continued to make up almost half of public school revenue for the third year in a row, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

“The new normal no longer expects to see a recovery of state support for higher education such as occurred repeatedly in the last half of the 20th century,” the report said. “The new normal expects students and their families to continue to make increasingly greater financial sacrifices in order to complete a postsecondary education. The new normal expects schools and colleges to find ways of increasing productivity and to absorb reductions in state support while increasing degree production without compromising quality.”

Advocates believe college is becoming unaffordable for a number of students due to a decrease in funding from state governments, writes Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post.

The report continued to state that in 1989, tuition funds accounted for just 25% of the total education revenue at state universities.  However, by last year, that percentage increased to 47.1%.  While that percentage is down from 2013, when it reached an all-time high of 47.7%, it does signify a change in funding.

Tuition funding varies from state to state, with only 15% of total education revenue coming from tuition in Wyoming, a state rich in oil money and with a small population, yet it accounts for a whopping 85% of education revenue in Vermont, which holds a large number of private universities and out-of-state students.

A total of 28 states across the country receive more than 50% of their total education revenue from tuition funding.  Of those, 15 receive over 60% of needed funding from this source.

The increase in tuition largely came about during the 2008 economic recession when many states cut funding to higher education.  At the same time, enrollment went up, which caused additional strain on school budgets.  A recent Government Accountability Office report shows that between the 2002-03 and 2011-12 school years, enrollment in public colleges experienced an increase of 20%.

This caused universities to increase their tuition to make up for the lack of funding.  While grant aid for students was increased by the federal government in an effort to make up the difference, the amount could not keep up with the rising tuition costs.

States have begun to increase higher education funding, although it is still not generally not to where it was before 2008.  On average, state and local governments spent $6,552 per student in 2014, a 5.4% increase from the year before.  However, that amount is still 13% less than it was five years ago.