Recession Hits Public Colleges Hard, a New Report Says

Tim Goral's picture
Thursday, March 21, 2013

The recession has had a two-pronged effect on public colleges and universities: States have slashed higher education funding to balance their budgets, while enrollment has boomed.

Squeezed from both sides, schools nationwide have scrambled to lower costs, cutting faculty and programs. To counter the reduction in state funding, they have raised tuition, their only other major revenue source.

The resulting numbers, adjusted for inflation, are striking: Schools received 28 percent less funding per student nationwide from the 2007-08 to the 2012-13 school year and raised tuition 27 percent in response, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington.

The financial burden of college ends up getting passed from states to students, according to the report, making it more difficult to pay for college.

"This trend - along with slow growth in middle-class incomes - has caused a decline in higher education affordability," the report said. "The growth in the cost of their education has far outstripped the growth in students' and their families' financial resources."

New Jersey and Pennsylvania fell in the middle of the pack, around the average with 27.2 percent and 29.9 percent less funding per student, respectively, according to the report, "Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts May Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come," which was released Friday.

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