College Tuition Spikes Despite Recession

In tough economic times, public college costs rise faster than private; federal government gives more financial support to struggling students.

by Converge Staff / October 20, 2009 0

The recession has forced some businesses to cut prices on products and services to stay afloat, but colleges and universities are going against the grain. Despite the economic downturn, tuition and fees rose 6.5 percent to $7,020 at public four-year colleges and 4.4 percent to $26,273 at private, nonprofit four-year institutions in the past year, according to the College Board's annual "Trends in College Pricing" report.

The figures differ in certain states, such as public colleges in California and New York that have seen double-digit increases, the Associated Press reports. But thanks to recent increases in financial aid from the government and colleges, some students are actually paying less on average than they were paying five years ago, although the estimated net prices are higher than last year.

The report shows how the federal government has made efforts to expand its role helping students pay for college. In the 2008-2009, federal grants, loans and work-study programs accounted for 65 percent of the $180 million spent on higher education expenses, up from 58 percent the prior year.

On the public side, the financial times have been disastrous, with California taking the worst hit. On top of the current year's 9-percent fee increase, the University of California system is considering increases of more than 30 percent by next year. Across the country, state appropriations to public colleges declined nearly $4 billion last year despite enrollment increases. Some schools implemented wait lists to guard against declining enrollment numbers. In the past two years, community colleges have been flooded with students and laid-off workers looking for job training for cheaper tuition.

"The strain on state budgets continues," said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, "and although they have been somewhat alleviated by economic stimulus dollars, my concern is that we may soon face a period where significant tuition increases may be necessary to counterbalance the current fiscal instability."

For the complete story, visit the AP and the Washington Post.