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Budget Cuts: Public Colleges are Cutting Back

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Some financial experts feel that the country’s failing economy is finally beginning to recover, but state budget crises are still causing drastic educational budget cuts. Unless government officials in the troubled states are able to find new tax dollars to support their colleges and universities, school administrators will have to increase tuition rates and resort to reducing the classes and services offered on campus.

To deal with the struggling economy and massive budget cuts, governing boards across the country are giving their schools the authority to launch large tuition increases. Inside Higher Ed has quoted Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, as saying "The pattern for the last 25 years has been that the biggest increases have come in recessions, because that’s when the budget gets cut, but it’s also when everybody else is hurting, when personal income is not growing and unemployment is high.”

A national average increase is not yet available, but it will be once the College Board publishes their annual tuition report in October. Some state education systems and individual colleges and universities have already publicly released their tuition increases and the numbers are quite disturbing.

Average 2010-11 In-State Tuition Increases for 4-Year Public Universities

  • Alabama, + 13.6%
  • Arizona, + 16.1%
  • California, + 13.2%
  • Florida, + 15.0%
  • Georgia, + 10.5%
  • Hawaii, + 11.6%
  • Louisiana, + 10.0%
  • North Carolina, + 16.9%
  • Washington, + 14.0%

(Source: Inside Higher Ed)

Incoming Students Worried about Paying for College

If paying for college wasn’t a major concern for so many people, the abundance of websites and guidebooks on the topic would cease to exist. According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey released in the fall of 2009, more first-year college students have concerns about their ability to finance college than at any time since 1971. The CIRP, UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities, found that more than half of incoming first-time students in 2009 reported “some” concern about financing college, and more students were turning to loans to pay for college.

Harder to Get into College?

USA Today ran an Associated Press article on January 14, 2010 which explained that college applicants are having more difficulty being accepted into public colleges and universities than ever before—thanks to large budget cuts and record numbers of applications. There has been a surge in applications from high school seniors, community college students and unemployed workers who are returning to school, and colleges are capping or cutting their enrollment.

Colleges that previously accepted all qualified applicants are now becoming more selective, turning people away, and selective schools are becoming even harder to get into.

Most community colleges allow all students, but a crowded campus means a great demand for classes. A lot of students can never get into the classes they need. As more students are turned away or faced with scheduling conflicts, they are often forced to attend more expensive private universities or give up on college altogether—neither of which are desirable choices.

Even if you are one of the lucky students able to attend classes, there are other annoyances to deal with. At the University of New Orleans, lights are turned off when rooms are empty and thermostats have been reset to save energy. “Sometimes, rooms are really hot; sometimes, they’re really cold,” student Oliver Bonie told the New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune. “I think the teachers are on edge.”

Other things are happening, too. Teachers are sending the course syllabus via email to save paper, and building repairs take longer than ever before.

Guaranteed Tuition

The information about budget cuts and tuition hikes is depressing, but I leave you with a bit of bright news. US News and World Report has published a list of twelve schools that guarantee that they will not raise tuition for at least some of their students.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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