WASHINGTON – College students are facing more financial pressure than ever because of state budget cuts for public colleges and universities,according to a report from the Center for American Progress.
The report,released Monday,said college tuition has steadily increased as a result of the recession and subsequent state funding cuts.
A panel discussion at the center focused on ways to increase funding for higher education.
David Bergeron,the center’s vice president for higher education,said 38 states decreased direct funding to public colleges,on average by 8 percent from 2003 to 2010.
Ted Mitchell,undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education,said states need to provide “equitable and fair” funding to students.
The report includes a potential solution – a federal grant program that would encourage states to reinvest in education by requiring states to match federal grants. States would be encouraged to create reliable funding,make college affordable,improve performance and remove barriers to college completion.
“We have called for a new compact between the state and federal governments to revitalize state funding in public colleges,” Bergeron said.
The proposal says bipartisan tax reform could create $1.4 trillion in revenue,some of which could be used to pay for the grant program.
From 2008 to 2012,the share of students taking out loans for school increased from 35 percent to 40 percent. In turn,the number of low-income students enrolling at colleges and universities has decreased.
“We need to work on reducing cost,and we need to make sure young people understand the range of opportunities for dealing with student debt,” Bergeron said.
David Baime,senior vice president for governmental relations at the American Association of Community Colleges,called the proposal “extraordinarily ambitious.”
He suggested encouraging state and federal governments to release more data about what college graduates earn compared to workers without degrees.
South Carolina,Arizona and New Hampshire had the sharpest decreases in state funding per student after the recession. In South Carolina,funding decreased by 41 percent,and in New Hampshire,funding decreased by 39 percent. New Hampshire had the highest in-state tuition,$14,665 for the 2013-2014 academic year,according to the College Board.
Arizona ranked last in the report’s study of post-recession spending per student with a 42 percent decrease from 2008 to 2012. School officials declined to comment.
In-state tuition at the University of Arizona is $11,000. Seven years ago,tuition was $5,649. If inflation is taken into account,according to the College Board,Arizona’s tuition would have been $10,391 for last year. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator,tuition for this year would be $6,458.
Meanwhile,Illinois,North Dakota and Wyoming increased their spending per student after the recession. Illinois increased spending by 8 percent,Wyoming by 11 percent and North Dakota by 19 percent.
“I think that our legislature has done a great job of complying with that mandate,” he said. “Wyoming is one of the highest investors in higher education in the country.”
About 40 percent of the university’s total operating budget comes from state funding.
According to the College Board,the average cost of in-state tuition at a public university is $8,893. The University of Wyoming’s yearly tuition is $4,645 – the lowest in-state tuition costs in the country.
Baldwin said the University of Wyoming “did some belt-tightening” after the recession in 2008,but state officials have always supported access to higher education.
“We’re just very fortunate here,” he said.
Reach reporter Ayana Stewart at [email protected] or 202-408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.