Published on 2012/10/19

Public Universities Will Freeze Tuition As Long As States Increase Support

One of the major issues facing higher education today is its cost, and high tuition prices are leading many to question the value of a degree at its core. Overcoming this critique is critical to the future of a successful higher education industry.

Of course, it is not as easy as simply freezing or reducing tuition costs from the universities’ perspective. After all, the increases are not without reason; reducing or freezing tuition is usually coupled with making cuts that dame the quality of education on offer. In other cases, those freezes can lead to larger class sizes, fewer selections available and lower salaries for faculty, which can ultimately lead them to move to greener pastures.

At the core of the tuition increases, according to administrators at public institutions, is the reduced funding higher education institutions are receiving from state governments. However, a handful of public universities have found a new solution to this problem.

A number of institutions have proposed budgets that would freeze tuition rates as long as their state government agrees to increase their funding for public higher education. This move takes the burden of the high prices off the universities and places it squarely at the feet of legislators.

“Too often it’s not clear the linkage between reductions in state appropriations and increases in tuition,” Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, who recently proposed a budget that would freeze tuition if lawmakers increased their investment in the university, told Kevin Kiley at Inside Higher Ed. “This makes that linkage crystal clear.”

This is not the first time higher education administrators have tried this approach to taking the burden of high tuition rates off their shoulders. Last year, the University of California system proposed a 16 percent increase in tuition if the state did not promise more investment. The move was unsuccessful, however.

The problem with the approach is that states are not disinvesting from higher education without reason. According to Joni Finney, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, states simply don’t have the resources necessary to invest in higher education.

“Getting the state to reinvest is going to be really hard to do,” she said. “Higher education isn’t at the top of a lot of priority lists.”

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