Colleges Being Funded Increasingly by Tuition, According to Recent Report

Posted By Eliana Osborn on February 10, 2016 at 5:11 pm
Colleges Being Funded Increasingly by Tuition, According to Recent Report

A lot of different piles of money make up any college or university budget.  Tuition may be the number that students and families think about most, but state funding from taxes, endowments and gifts, and federal program monies also contribute to the big picture.

The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research reports on where money is coming from on college campuses.  For those worried about college costs, the news doesn’t look good.  Tuition dollars are making up a more and more of higher education budgets.

State report cards were recently released, detailing how each state is doing funding their public colleges.  After dramatic cutbacks to higher education during the recession, only two states have gotten back to 2008 levels.  The Delta Cost Project explains the problem—money sources went down, but spending did not decrease correspondingly.  “Instead, they turned to students to increasingly finance their operations, further reinforcing the notion of education as a private, rather than a public, good,” the report states.

In real numbers, tuition at public research universities covered an average 50.5% of educational costs in 2008. In 2013, tuition paid for 62.4%.  More than ten percent more of college costs are being paid for by students, instead of being spread out over whole state populations in the form of taxes.  At the community college level, a lower percentage of costs are covered by tuition: 37% in 2013 versus 30% in 2008.

Findings from the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center highlight continuing tuition increases above and beyond the level of inflation: “In FY 2015- 16, tuition will rise at community colleges, regional universities, and flagships by 3%, 4%, and 3.5%, respectively. Tuition is predicted to rise above the 2.1% HEPI for community college students in 25 states, regional university students in 28 states, and flagship university students in 26 states.”

In early 2014, the Hechinger Report noted “The net price—the total annual cost of tuition, fees, room, board, books and other expenses, minus federal, state, and institutional scholarships and grants—rose for all students by an average of $1,100 at public and $1,500 at private universities between the 2008-09 and 2011-12 academic years, the most recent period for which the figures are available.”  Those increasing costs are being felt more by low-income students, as financial aid has not kept up with rising tuition.

If colleges continue to raise tuition to offset budget shortfalls, enrollment may suffer.  Over-reliance on tuition for operating budgets is only a temporary solution that hurts those who should be served by the institution itself.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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