Higher education costs continue to grow

on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Higher education costs continue to growAs the back-to-school season approaches, most students will see higher tuition rates again this year. CBS News reported that while the cost of attending college has gone up as much as 8 percent in the past 10 years, the average wage has not kept pace with skyrocketing tuition. Bloomberg reported that in the past 30 years, the cost of college has increased 1,120 percent. More and more students and their parents are forced to accumulate debt to afford a college degree in an uncertain economy, and student debt in the United States now exceeds $1 trillion.

The pressure to compete
Universities are quickly raising tuition and fees in order to pay for things that will draw students to their schools. Brand-new facilities like high-tech gyms, state-of-the-art classrooms and modern dormitories are part of student expectations, and these offerings can be expensive to construct. Students are also beginning to expect schools to have the newest technology available to them, such as smart classrooms and tablets. Colleges are passing these costs along to their customers, who may find the incredible amenities worth the hefty price tag. Some schools are also bringing on a few distinguished professors to attract students to a specific department. Combining new construction and the newest technological advances with the salaries of prestigious faculty can break a university's budget.

State funding declining
In addition to their new projects, university funding at many state schools is hitting an all-time low, as state governments struggle to get through the recession. State budget cuts often directly impact public colleges, which are typically much more affordable than private schools, when they are forced to raise their tuition upon receiving less money from the government. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that proposed budget cuts will eliminate $108 million in funding for the University System of Georgia. The source reported that in addition to losing significant funds, the schools will now also likely see a decline in enrollment. Those who could not afford higher education are now less likely to receive tuition assistance and be able to attend school due to the cuts.

Legislation may be coming
Some politicians have been pushing education legislation to make college easier on the wallets of parents and students alike. The Making College Affordable Act has been endorsed by several members of the U.S. Congress and aims to help families set aside money for college tuition. This will supplement the current government-sponsored Pell grant program, which makes funds available to students in need.

Trying to control costs
Despite their eagerness to attract new students with the best in facilities, technology and professors, most university budget planning is under strict scrutiny. Even though some schools are bringing on the most well-known professors in their fields, others are hiring more part-time professors in an effort to cut costs. More universities are also "outsourcing" their food, medical and maintenance services to eliminate unnecessary spending.

Some green initiatives are helping colleges to save the planet in addition to saving their budgets. Higher education spending is declining while some departments and classes are going paperless to cut back on the cost of paper and ink. Other schools are modernizing buildings so they rely on less-expensive sustainable energy or installing more efficient appliances and systems to save on their energy bills.

CNN reported that more colleges are trying to hold out on tuition increases to encourage students to attend their schools, and others are offering four-year tuition rate guarantees. Less expensive tuition can result in an increase in the number of students who enroll, because they see the institution as a good value. As college becomes less affordable, more students seek out higher education options that fit within their budgets.

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