As funding shrinks, tuition rises

Community colleges and public universities will raise tuition to cope with shrinking budgets, according to a report by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. Enrollment will continue to rise, predicts Professor Stephen Katsinas. State and federal aid will plateau or decline.

“All of our nation’s public access institutions — that’s the flagship universities, regional universities and community colleges — are really hurting right now,” Katsinas said. “Until the state revenue picture improves, we’re looking at increased demands juxtaposed with decreased resources.”

The research team surveyed community college leaders nationwide. Many said high unemployment rates have drained job retraining funds and state scholarship aid isn’t keeping up with need. States with fast-growing minority populations reported the greatest threat to college access.

“With Pell Grant cuts at the federal level, tuition rising at more than double the inflation rate and state-funded student aid stagnating in most states, students and their families are being squeezed,” the report reads. “And the significant reductions in state operating budgets are simultaneously challenging the public higher education access institutions.

Tuition will go up by 5.6 percent at community colleges, which face 4.2 percent cuts in state funding, the report predicts.

Nearly all community college leaders said funds are needed to expand allied health, engineering and information technology programs that lead to high-wage jobs. However, colleges are under increasing pressure to offer or expand short-term, non-credit job training to get laid-off workers back into the labor market quickly.