- Several state budgets on the table seek to stem the rising cost of higher education by freezing tuition at public colleges and universities, with some tying additional funding to keeping costs level.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed budget would freeze tuition across the University of California and California State University systems, EdSource reported. Virginia's public colleges will share a $60 million increase in state funds if they keep tuition flat, according to WVTF. And South Carolina lawmakers have proposed freezing tuition for in-state residents at public institutions, The State reported.
- In Minnesota and Pennsylvania, some higher ed officials have offered to freeze tuition in exchange for more state funding. A tuition freeze is also being discussed in Colorado, though the Colorado Sun reported some say the approach puts the needs of large and small institutions at odds.
The proposed limits on tuition increases are one piece of a higher ed funding puzzle that grew primarily out of dramatic recession-era state budget cuts and has been exacerbated by slower investment returns. Also on the table are major pushes for fundraising, belt-tightening and recruiting students from a wider range of demographics, including nontraditional learners and those hailing from outside the state or country.
However, some taxpayers may not fully understand institutions' budget woes. About 34% of U.S. adults in a recent survey said they thought government funding for public higher ed had stayed the same over the last decade and 27% said they thought it increased.
While there have been signs state funding is beginning to snap back, most states report amounts well below pre-recession levels and their reliance on it varies widely. Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) show 2018 funding to public two- and four-year institutions were $7 billion below 2008 levels, when adjusted for inflation.
Lawmakers in states such as Michigan and Washington have tied higher ed funding to their institutions' curbing tuition increases.
In a report focused on New England colleges, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston notes a direct link between such funding cuts and decreased spending on instruction and increased levels of tuition.
Public doctoral institutions see a 17-cent increase in net tuition and fees and a 30-cent decline in instructional spending for every dollar lost in state funding. At community colleges, the report explains, a $1 decrease in state funding has an even bigger effect, leading to a 56-cent decrease in instructional spending.