State universities facing a quandary: Raise tuition or see quality decline
As public schools like the University of California struggle to find ways to remain competitive with top tier private schools, they're having to do so with declining state support. Accordingly, many are hiking tuition dramatically, but it's making college much less affordable.
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As cash-strapped states continue to cut funding for public universities, tuition is likely to keep on rising. How should public universities balance budget cuts and tuition hikes?
The University of California is ground zero for this debate. The UC schools raised tuition by 18 percent this year. Fees might go up as much as 16 percent per year through 2015.
Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and a professor at UCLA, says there's really no choice. With state governments unable to increase funding, Carnesale said public schools that want to remain among the nation's elite universities have no choice but to make dramatic hikes.
"Even before the budget problems, it was clear the resource gap between public universities and private universities was growing," he said.
To keep up, Carnesale says UC needs $2.2 billion more per year. The state of California could appropriate that — not at all likely — or the universities could raise tuition $11,000 per student per year.
Carnesale said UC students already graduate with among the smallest amount of student loan debt of any university's graduates: about $17,000.
"You can have higher fees and higher aid," he explained.
According to Carnesale, 60 percent of US students receive financial aid — and more than 30 percent receive Federal pell Grants, for low-income families.
"The problem is not that the people with no money can't afford it, because they get financial aid, the problem is in part that someone who's family income is $1 million, they too only pay $13,000," he said.
But Adam Swart, a UCLA junior and student government chief of staff, said the problem is that aid isn't rising as fast as tuition prices. Plus, at most of the UC schools, on-campus housing is exceptionally expensive, he said.
"A lot of students on the ground are saying, aid isn't going up, it's actually going down," he said.
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