- A study by Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchenshows that student fees at community colleges and public four-year institutions increased at a rate nearly double that of tuition between 2000 and 2013.
- The 2008 economic recession yielded the highest single-year increase of 7% in fees, and while the increase rate has slowed to about 3% per year, costs average to be $1,719 at four-year institutions and $467 at community colleges.
- Fee increases often are charged to help offset decreases in state appropriations and help to finance maintenance of library services and campus technology.
Public finance for higher education is often at the mercy of political will, and if state legislators cap tuition as a show of support for saving families money, then institutions will respond with other available increases to adjust to market costs.
The key to solving the delicate balance between tuition and fees is in reducing direct costs while maintaining academic and service integrity. Some schools are working to make open-source learning materials and electronic student service provision a common operational standard. Other campuses can benefit by making sure students are not placed in unnecessary remedial courses, or by encouraging degree completion in four years.
Operational costs aren’t likely to change and there are few things presidents can do to influence political tenor when it comes to budget allocations. But helping families to save money on costs they feel beyond what student loans and grant pay for, helps to ease a lot of the financial burden while building institutional goodwill with students.