Going Broke from College? Thank the States

Reblogged from Bloomberg
By Christopher Flavelle

The cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university went up 46 percent in real dollars from 2000 to 2010, prompting President Barack Obama to make tuition a central part of his push for the middle class. So maybe we should talk about what’s actually causing the problem: State governments.

Unlike, say, medical care, rising tuition costs don’t reflect an increase in the underlying cost of the service being provided. Over the same 2000 to 2010 period, education and related spending per full-time student rose just 6.4 percent for bachelor’s programs at public institutions, controlling for inflation. Operation and maintenance costs actually fell during that period, as did academic support. For master’s degrees, the increase was even less — just 4.4 percent.

So what was behind the skyrocketing tuition? Mostly falling state support. While the recession put extra pressure on state budgets, the share of spending that goes to higher education has been slipping for 15 years. In 1998, 13.1 percent of state general-fund spending went to higher education. By 2012, that was down to 10 percent.

That translates into a significant drop in funding per student. In 2001, state governments appropriated $8,427 for each full-time student or equivalent. By 2012, that had fallen to $5,906, a reduction of almost a third. (Both figures are in 2012 dollars.)

Read the rest of this post on Bloomberg.com.

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