For the First Time, Public Colleges Are Receiving More Money From Students Than States

Graph: Ellen Wexler Data: U.S. Government Accountability Office
Graph: Ellen Wexler
Data: U.S. Government Accountability Office

Back in 2003, public colleges were funded primarily by state governments. Since then, state funding dropped while tuition rose. And for the first time, according to a new study, students are putting more money into public colleges than the states.

The study, which was conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, traced public college revenue between 2003 and 2012. In 2003, state funding accounted for 32%  of public college’s revenue — more than any other source — while tuition made up 17%.

But almost every year since then, money from students (and their parents and grandparents) went up, while state funding dropped. By 2012, tuition made up 25% of revenue, while money from state governments made up 23%.

The increase in revenue from tuition makes sense: Over those nine years, median tuition at public colleges rose 55%. Average net tuition, which is what students pay once grant aid is deducted, increased by 19%. And almost every year — including last year — college tuition increased faster than inflation.

“The bottom line is that college has become less affordable for students and their families,” said Melissa Emrey-Arras, a leader of the study, in a GAO podcast. “It’s not just a perception thing. There really is truth to that in terms of the numbers that we’ve seen.”

Click here for more.

Ellen Wexler

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