Students pay the price for states’ quick fix

In the past year the tuition for public universities across the nation has risen an average of 14 percent, according to an annual survey by the College Board. Rises of this magnitude inevitably cause financial hardship for many students.

Once adjusted for inflation, this year’s increase is the largest in a quarter of a century. On this occasion, tuition increases were accompanied by sharp cuts in state spending on higher education.

In public universities, in-state undergraduates are paying an average of $4,694 per year. Private schools have also raised tuition by more then five percent in each of the last three years, an increase of more than twice the rate of inflation. This year’s 6 percent rise brings the average yearly cost of tuition for undergraduates to $19,710.

With the increasing number of grants and scholarships given, students are paying an average of $343 more for tuition than they did 10 years ago. Without taking scholarships into account, college students are paying $1,100 more.

Publicly funded scholarships are now being threatened, as state legislatures ponder ways to trim expenditures. The topic of scholarships, such as Bright Futures, is commonly brought up as with each tuition increase the state must pay even more for each student.

State legislators are seen as the ones to blame for this rise in tuition. An article in The New York Times said, “For the most part, tuition at public universities rose so fast this year to compensate for the declining government support of state campuses.”

This claim is backed up by a National Conference of State Legislatures survey that showed the total state spending on higher education dropped by 2.2 percent this year with some states cutting their higher education expenditures by 9 percent or more. The Florida Legislature cut its spending to public universities last year by $40 million with USF taking $12 million of that cut.

State governments around the country need to realize that cuts in funding to public universities are, in the long-term, counterproductive. As more young people struggle to meet the rising costs of a university education, states will find themselves with an increasingly unskilled workforce more likely to be a burden on the state.