College Affordability is a Struggle as State Aid Drops, Tuition Rises

Tim Goral's picture

Making college more affordable to more people continues to be elusive, and the recent recession hasn't made it any easier.

States have cut their support for public colleges and universities -- deeply, in some cases -- and schools have raised tuition as a result. They've also dropped classes, eliminated faculty and reduced other services to compensate.

For high school seniors nervously waiting for admissions decisions this spring from public colleges and universities, the recession's impact might mean fewer acceptances, in some cases, and higher costs for many who do get in, according to a study on the impact of state education cuts by the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"A lot of groups are calling for states to figure out a long-term strategy for funding higher ed," said Julie Bell, the education program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Almost nobody thinks states are going to return to where they were."

States began trimming their budgets after the recession took hold in 2008, according to the center, a research group that studies the impact of government spending on low- and moderate-income people. Few took steps -- such as raising taxes -- to replace what they'd lost, it noted.

"It's a really dangerous trend" because tuition will keep growing beyond what increasing numbers of people can pay, said Phil Oliff, an author of the report.

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