Students Are Paying More for State Schools


According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), students are now paying more of the costs associated with attending public universities in their home states than state governments are, making college even less affordable.

The report, State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability, discovered that in 2012, the amount of money state colleges collected in tuition was higher than the amount of money they received from state funding. Tuition that year totaled 25% of school revenue. In 2003, it accounted for only 17%. Meanwhile, state funding dropped from 32% to 23%.

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland states that public colleges received 75% of their revenues from state governments in the 1970s.

The rise in tuition payments come at the same time that more students are attending state schools. Between the 2002-2003 school year and 2011-2012, the number of students enrolled in state schools rose 20%. At the same time, state funding for each student dropped 24%, from $6,211 in the 2003 fiscal year to $4,695 in the 2012 fiscal year.

According to the GAO, the collapse of the financial markets in 2008 played a large role in the decrease of state contributions to higher education, despite a drop in the amount states supplied public schools with in the last decade. The recession caused massive depletions of state budgets, causing legislatures to cut the per-student funding for higher education by as much as 23%.

In order to make up the money they were no longer receiving, state schools increased tuition costs. Beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, tuition prices rose 28% over the rate of inflation. However, federal grant aid and other free money has not kept up with the increasing costs associated with attending college, writes Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post.

For example, the Federal Pell Grant Program, which offers money that does not need to be repaid to students whose household incomes are around $30,000 or less, covered 77% of costs associated with attending a four-year college in the 1980s. That number has decreased to cover just 36% of costs as of 2011. After allowing for grant aid, estimated tuition went up by 19% by 2012 according to the report.

"These increases have contributed to the decline in college affordability as students and their families are bearing the cost of college as a larger portion of their total family budgets," the GAO wrote.

While the recession did cause the majority of the decline, now that state budgets are beginning to recover, spending on higher education is not increasing, causing a massive showdown between state governments and public universities.

In November, president of the California university system Janet Napolitano suggested raising tuition in an effort to push Gov. Jerry Brown into providing the system with more funding. However, Brown did not offer the additional funding and the University of California's governing board voted for the tuition increase.

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