Students Paying More and Getting More Out of Higher Education

Ask any parent you know who has or is considering sending a child to college and you will likely hear a similar reaction: the cost of it is prohibitively expensive and consistently on the rise. Many students are forced to take out massive loans to the extent that it has been called a crisis, with total student debt reaching upwards of $1 trillion. This spiraling growth of college cost and the necessity for student loans to cover these costs is inevitably leading families to the question: is it worth it?

Absolutely, according to The College Board’s 2013 report on trends in college pricing that highlights numerous trends in higher education, including the variation in tuition and fees charged by schools, enrollment patterns, institutional finances and college affordability. The report notes that the median income for families headed by a four-year college graduate is more than twice that of a family headed by a high school graduate. The New York Times concurred with this assessment, noting that Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more per hour than those without four-year degrees; this figure is up from 64 percent more per hour in the early ‘80s. With the need for a college education glaringly apparent in today’s highly competitive economy, states are beginning to take the lead in finding ways to make school more affordable for those who most need support to surmount higher education’s financial obstacles.

Stateline has complied some of the most effective measures states have taken so far to get more students in school and on the path to graduate. Since 2008, states have increased their total financial aid spending by 28 percent in an effort to offset rapidly increasing tuition prices. Colorado recently implemented a six percent annual cap on tuition increases, while Iowa took this a step further and froze all tuition increases at state colleges and universities. NCSL has also compiled a list of states that are moving from a traditional enrollment-based funding model to a performance-based funding model that rewards colleges and universities for meeting specific goals such as graduating students on time.  It’s clear that states have begun to notice both the growing need for higher education to stay competitive in this country and the growing cost of tuition and fees gradually pushing more prospective students away from these important institutions. In the upcoming 2015-2016 biennium, expect more state legislators to begin to confront this issue head-on.

Some other major takeaways from The College Board’s report:

  • The average annual rate of increase in in-state tuition for public colleges and universities from 2003 to 2014 was 4.2 percent; for private nonprofit schools this figure was 2.3 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2014, increases in in-state tuition at public, four-year institutions ranged from 5 percent in Missouri to 70 percent in Arizona.
  • From 2002 to 2012, declines in family income ranged from 13 percent for the bottom quintile to 0.5 percent for the top quintile.
  • From 2001 to 2011, enrollment in public institutions grew by 48 percent in Georgia and Florida to 11 percent in Louisiana.