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Higher Ed Tuition Hikes Nearing Double Digits in Some States

June 15, 2011

As the cost of a college education continues to rise and good paying jobs are seemingly scarcer than ever before, many Americans are questioning the value of a college degree. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found 57 percent of Americans believe the U.S. fails to provide good value for the money students and their families spend, and about four in ten college presidents say the system is headed in the wrong direction. At the same time, however, studies find the lifetime earnings of college graduates to be much higher than those of high school graduates. Further, students majoring in engineering, computers and mathematics can expect to make more money than any other undergraduate major.

The Pew report, Is College Worth It? is based on findings from two surveys conducted this spring — one with the general public and the other an online survey among college presidents. Among survey respondents who graduated from a four-year college, 74 percent said their college education was useful in helping them grow intellectually, but only 55 percent said it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career. Additionally, a record number of students are leaving college with substantial debt burden, the survey found. And, with significant cuts to higher education enacted during recent legislative sessions, news of nearly double digit tuition increases has been quick to follow in states including Montana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.

Tuition is expected to rise more than 10 percent over the next two years in Montana — the largest increase since 2006, reports The Associated Press. The Montana Board of Regents approved a 5 percent increase per year in May following a reduction of about $22.5 million for The Montana University System over the next two years during the recent legislative session, according to The Billings Gazette. Comparatively, regents froze tuition in 2007, followed by a 3 percent increase in 2009 at the largest campuses, the article notes.

New York
Research universities under the State University of New York (SUNY) could increase tuition by 8 percent annually for five years under a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that seeks to implement the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program. The program is a joint effort between the governor and SUNY that seeks to incentivize bottom-up, individualized long-term economic development plans on SUNY campuses and the surrounding communities, according to the governor's office. Other SUNY schools would be able to raise tuition up to 5 percent. Gov. Cuomo says the increases are necessary to help build the institutions into regional economic development generators and world-class centers of research and innovation.

The Oregon Board of Higher Education this month approved tuition and fee increases of nearly 9 percent for Portland State and Oregon State. The University of Oregon will increase tuition 7.3 percent after withdrawing higher fees for remodeling the student union and recreation center, reports The Associated Press. Smaller schools will see increases around 5 to 6 percent. The state's $5 billion higher education budget will shrink by about $200 million over the next two years, according to the article.

A tuition increase of up to 11 percent is possible for students this fall in Tennessee. The Tennessee Board of Regents finance committee outlined the proposed increases this week. The University of Memphis would see the highest increase, 11 percent, followed by Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University with 9.8 percent tuition increases, reports the Asheville Citizen-Times. Tuition and fees at community colleges would rise 9.5 percent. The increases are necessary to offset $20 million in expected cuts to higher education, said the Board of Regents chancellor in an Associated Press article. A final decision will be made later this month.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law HB 1795, a measure allowing the state's four-year colleges and universities to set their own tuition, which previously was done by the legislature. Tuition increases ranging from 11 to 16 percent were expected under the 2011-13 biennium budget passed in May, but the new law gives six state institutions the ability to exceed those levels, according to an article in The Seattle Times. The transfer of authority to schools is meant to offset about $500 million in cuts to colleges and universities over the next two years, the article states.

Opting not to accept the rights under the new law, Washington State University Board of Regents instead approved a 16 percent tuition increase proposed by the legislature for the coming year, reports The Daily Evergreen. At the same time, The University of Washington will vote on a proposal to raise tuition 20 percent this fall — 4 percent higher than the amount budgeted by the legislature, reports The Associated Press.

Montana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington