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Colleges raise tuition as much as 22 percent
Students also hit with bigger classes, fewer opportunities
“At the time the tuition goes up, it affects 2 [percent] or 3 percent of the state’s population,” Mr. Vedder said.
“If taxes go up, it affects 100 percent of the population. The K-through-12 lobby among the people is vastly greater.”
Tuition increases are hardly new. Each year since 2000, the average price at a public, four-year university has risen 5.6 percent, according to the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, which tracks prices and college access.
Despite that trajectory, many institutions find it difficult, if not impossible, to start handing out pink slips or shut down programs and classes. Facilities still get built, and tenured professors still get raises, no matter how dire the financial situation becomes, Mr. Vedder said.
“Universities, faced with state budget cuts, can do two things: They can actually cut back a good bit on what they do and the amount of money they spend and make some real savings,” he said. “But the standard answer for everything is to raise tuition.
“Colleges are loath to make real cuts. I don’t see concerted efforts to cut costs, and the reason is there’s no incentive,” Mr. Vedder said. “The way to get ahead, keep your job and make people happy is to spend money.”
Tuition increases usually won’t sway a student’s decision, especially a student who borrows or relies heavily on Pell Grant or scholarship programs, he added.
A sense of competition among colleges often compounds the problem. Mr. Vedder said university leaders are reluctant to increase class sizes or cut expenses when their competitors are hiring more professors, offering new programs and building a new football stadium.
Eventually, however, students and parents may reach their breaking point. For-profit institutions and community colleges have seen significant growth in the past few years as students seek cheaper alternatives.
Some universities are realizing they must adjust to a new normal in terms of funding. In a July 15 statement, Penn State’s board of trustees outlined steps it is taking - in addition to the tuition increase - to reduce costs.
The university renegotiated health care benefits and property and liability insurance, froze salaries for faculty and staff, and offered early retirement to some senior professors.
“We are determined that our students and their families will not bear the full burden of the appropriation cuts,” Penn State President Graham B. Spanier said in the statement.
“The cost-cutting measures we’re taking involve significant sacrifice on the part of the university community as a whole, but they’re being done with the goal of allowing students to continue to pursue a Penn State education.”
In addition to its 6.7 percent tuition increase, the University of Michigan is increasing its financial aid budget by 4.9 percent, pumping $137 million into the system, which is available to families with incomes of less than $80,000.
The institution’s employees are now paying more for their health insurance, and some classes are being offered less frequently.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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