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Contact: Heather Jack
Voice: (408) 271-2699
E-mail: hjack@highereducation.org

February 11, 2003

Public College Tuition Soars, Higher Education Appropriations Plummet-College Affordability in Jeopardy


San Jose, CA--Public higher education tuition has soared in the past year as state spending for colleges and universities has dropped sharply, according to a new report on college affordability released today.

"The states are responding to the budget crisis by passing major cuts on to colleges and universities-and colleges and universities are responding to these reductions by passing on the cost to students and families," said Patrick M. Callan, President of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "This is all happening at a time when student financial aid is not keeping pace with increases in tuition."

"The result was the worst fiscal news for public higher education institutions and their students in at least a decade, as the economic recession struck almost every state," the report noted.

College Affordability in Jeopardy, released today by the National Center, highlights the nation's public two- and four-year colleges and universities, which enroll about 80% of America's college students. This report is the first to look at what has happened state-by-state to public tuition and fees, state appropriations for higher education, state student financial aid, and personal income for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 (as of December, 2002).

The report shows that public colleges continue to become less affordable for students and families. At public four-year colleges and universities, 16 states have increased tuition and fees by more than 10%. Massachusetts led with the largest increase, at 24%, followed by Missouri, Iowa and Texas at 20% and North Carolina at 19%.

New York had the smallest tuition increase among states, at 2%, followed by Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon at 3%. It's important to note that the numbers have gotten worse since the data was collected; for instance, in New York the Governor has proposed increasing tuition by 35% or more at the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY).

At public two-year colleges, 10 states have increased tuition and fees by more than 10%. South Carolina and Massachusetts led with the largest increase, at 26%, followed by New Hampshire and Arkansas at 17%, and then Washington and Indiana at 14%. California, Maine, Hawaii, New York and Pennsylvania showed little or no increase in public two-year tuition from the past year.

Despite the increases in tuition at public colleges and universities, some states have invested little in student financial aid. Only 14 states have increased their spending in student grant aid by more than 10%, while 17 states have decreased their total investment. South Carolina had the largest increase in investment in student financial aid (94%), while Massachusetts had the largest decrease (24%).

States that increased tuition were not necessarily the same states that offset those increases with additional investment in student financial aid. For example, public four-year college tuition increased in Massachusetts by 24%, while the state decreased student financial aid by 24%. In Illinois, public four-year college tuition increased by 9%, while the state cut student financial aid by 10%. In Missouri, public four-year tuition increased by 20%, while the state decreased student financial aid by 5%.

Furthermore, in the past year, state support for higher education has declined in 14 states. State support for higher education grew only 1% nationally in FY 2003 over the previous year. Appropriations increased 17% in Wyoming, the largest increase in the nation. The largest decline was in Oregon at 11%.

"The cumulative effect is a major assault on college affordability," said Callan. "This comes at a time when unemployment is high, personal income is basically flat, and college-level education and training is a requirement for most well-paying jobs."

Per capita income rose by only 2% nationwide according to the report. Fifteen states showed growth of 1% or less in per capita income, while 15 states grew at 4% or more. South Dakota and Nebraska benefited with a 5% increase in per capita personal income, while Colorado is the only state that showed a decline over the same period.

The information used in this report comes from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis; the U.S. Bureau of the Census; the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; the Washington (state) Higher Education Coordinating Board; the National Association of State Budget Officers; and the annual "Grapevine" report published by the Center for Higher Education and Educational Finance at Illinois State University. All numbers are in current dollars.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes public policies that enhance Americans' opportunities to pursue and achieve a quality higher education. The National Center was established in 1998 with founding grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Atlantic Philanthropies that have supported the initiation and continuation of its programs, including the biannual state-by-state report card on higher education. The Ford Foundation also has provided core support to the National Center.

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