College financing burden shifts from states to students

The combination of increasing college costs and government budget cuts has forced students and their families to pay a greater share of the cost for higher education, according to the annual report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (website).


The total funding public colleges and universities received from state and local governments in fiscal 2012, $81.2 billion, represents a 7-percent decrease from 2011. Moreover, our governments supported each student enrolled in those colleges and universities less than they have in 25 years: per-student support, in constant 2012 dollars, dropped nearly 10 percent from 2011, to $5,896 per student.

“Tuition revenues are up substantially due to higher prices and more enrollments, but not enough to offset losses of public funding,” said SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter. ‚ÄúStudents are paying more, while public institutions are receiving substantially less money to educate them.”

Tuition and fees now account for about 47 percent of per-student revenue at public colleges and universities in the US. This proportion has increased substantially since 1987, when it was 23 percent. The increase accelerated in 2011, when much of the post-recession stimulus dried up, but the increasing share students have to pay for a higher cost of college means that students will tend to enroll in college part-time, simply because part-time tuition is lower than full-time tuition and more within their personal budgets.

And that’s a big deal, because the more students go to school part-time, the lower chance they have of completing a degree. “The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that students who cannot afford to attend full-time or nearly full-time have unacceptable rates of degree completion,” Mr Lingenfelter said.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.