Why Tuition Increases at State Schools

August 7, 2012

Statistically, public colleges have increased tuition and fees by 559 percent of the cost that they were in 1985. People assume that schools are spending too much on high-priced faculty members, climbing walls, sports teams and Jacuzzis, and while some of that is true, it's also because schools have been adding different kinds of staff, such as health care. In addition, emergency alert systems have become expensive to maintain, in addition to technology departments that are necessary to maintain network security and also provide substantial online programs for schools. However, there is something else going on with state schools that most don't realize when analyzing the tuition hikes.

At public colleges and universities, funding is dependent on donors, alumni, and of course, state funding. However, as tax revenue has fallen and the demand for services goes up, the government must cut different funding and unfortunately, states often cut funding for public universities. States that are struggling more with revenue will cut even more. Discretionary spending usually includes public education, and even if it is one of the biggest programs, it's still received the largest amount of cuts. States usually assume that schools will receive other types of funding.

Mostly that means, states expect that tuition costs will go up and that students who want to go to the school will pay. State legislatures have to pay for things like prisons, since the prisoners certainly aren't going to pay, but the college students must pay to go to school, a statement proposed by Ronald Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. Ehrenberg is also a trustee of the State University of New York System.

Since college students are now paying more than ever to go to school, it's reasonable to expect that once the economy returns to normal, that the funding will be replaced, but as history has shown, states never gave back any of the funding. The tuition just continued to increase. As states have to spend more, they still will prioritize spending away from the public colleges and universities, expecting that students will pick up the check.

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