Students cover more of their public university tuition now than state governments

By:  Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

It used to be that attending a public university all but guaranteed graduating with little to no debt. State governments funneled enough money into higher education that families could send their kids to a local school without worrying about taking out a second mortgage or private loans to pay their way.

Not so anymore. These days students pay more of the cost of attending public universities than state governments, a shift that is making college less affordable, according to a recentGovernment Accountability Office report.

Researchers found that the money public colleges collect in tuition surpassed the money they receive from state funding in 2012. Tuition accounted for 25 percent of school revenue, up from 17 percent in 2003. State funding, meanwhile, plummeted from 32 percent to 23 percent during the same period. That’s a far cry from the 1970s, when state governments supplied public colleges with nearly 75 percent of their funding, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Students are paying a bigger chunk of the bill just as more of them are going to public colleges. The number of students enrolled in public colleges rose by 20 percent from the 2002-2003 school year to 2011-2012, according to the report. Meanwhile, median state funding per student fell 24 percent, from $6,211 in fiscal year 2003 to $4,695 in fiscal year 2012.

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