These Are the States Where College Students Are Hardest Hit by Tuition Hikes

How much undergrads pay for a degree depends on location, location, location.

Arizona State University. (Photo: Charles Cook/Getty Images)

Jan 10, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Slashed funding for state schools and skyrocketing tuition. Thanks to the Great Recession, that combo has become the norm on America’s college campuses. Public universities tend to pass costs on to students, who end up borrowing an average of $30,000 to cover the upward-spiraling price of a diploma.

But according to a report released this week from education advocacy group The Young Invincibles, budget cuts—and how much financial burden is being shifted to students—vary widely.

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The organization analyzed data from 2008 to 2014 on per-student spending, average tuition, financial aid, and degree attainment equity for each state. It found that nationally, student spending fell by 21 percent during that time frame.

Digging into the per-state data reveals that between 2008 and 2014, Louisiana chopped its higher education budget by an astounding 41 percent. Alabama was the second worst—it decimated funding by 39 percent, and Pennsylvania came in third place, with a 37 percent drop in funding. Meanwhile, according to the report, North Dakota and Alaska were the only places where lawmakers chose to invest as much—or more—in public higher education as they did prior to the recession.

(Chart: Courtesy The Young Invincibles)

During the same time frame, tuition and fees at both four-year and two-year schools increased 28 percent nationally. However, tuition hikes at state schools in Arizona jumped 72 percent, while in Georgia they increased 68 percent, and in Louisiana, 66 percent.

Meanwhile, in California, the world’s eighth-largest economy and the nation’s most populous state, fees increased 56 percent—a far cry from a generation ago, when the best public university in the nation, the University of California, Berkeley, was free for residents. In comparison, Missouri, Maine, Montana, Maryland, and Ohio all raised their tuition 10 percent or less.

(Chart: Courtesy The Young Invincibles)

“The less funding a school gets from their state, the more students will have to pay in tuition to make up the difference,” wrote the report’s authors. And did they ever. Nationally in 2008, students and families coughed up roughly 36 percent of the cost of college but were responsible for half the cost by 2014. Again, the amount students and families were asked to pay varies widely by state. People living in Vermont were asked to pony up 82 percent of the cost of attending a state school, the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, folks in Wyoming were asked to pay a comparatively reasonable 15 percent of the cost.

(Chart: Courtesy The Young Invincibles)

With the majority of U.S. students attending state schools, the report’s authors suggest that “states enact policies that help all students access and complete affordable and quality higher education” and focus on need-based aid, which is “more successful in enrolling and graduating students.”

The Young Invincibles also pointed out that its research indicates most millennials don’t see college affordability as a partisan campaign issue. Student debt has become a hot topic in the presidential race, and a full 81 percent of young voters the organization surveyed said it’s a topic the next commander in chief should address. But given the differences between states, it seems those voters might want to put pressure on their local legislators too.